XI. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.
I got the call as I was walking through Arlington Cemetery on this beautifully brisk fall morning. Grandpa lost his battle. As I gasped for breath, the beauty in his goodbye struck me, as I stood surrounded by veterans for Grandpa fought in the Korean War as the brave helmsman of the USS Maddox in the Pacific Fleet. From the start, Grandpa taught me how to gracefully fight battles. I mimicked his grace in my fight for I watched him battle lymphoma with courage and laughter only two years before my diagnosis. As I sat with Grandpa this past week, I wanted him to understand the wonderfully potent impact that he had on my life. On the back of his favorite picture, I strung together words from my heart. I’ll never know whether he had enough strength to read them, but just knowing that they filled the air next to him was enough.
My dearest Grandpa,
The grace found in my heart is a gift from you. From my very beginning, you spent every summer toiling away at each beautiful layer of my heart to create a capsule of virtue and values. The toughened outermost layer of my heart mirrors your hard work ethic. I’ll never forget the hours of hard labor that I spent with you trimming the infamous fifty hedges that adorn your property. As sweat rolled out of my pores under the blazing August sun, we unleashed tales of old.
Over the blaring racket of the hedge trimmers, my face filled with perspiration and grins as you outlined your limitless attempts to court Grandma. I will be forever grateful that you held fast to your work ethic and eventually won her over for your boundless love created the next ample layer of my heart.
Since the moment you picked your brilliant tomato, your steadfast loyalty to family was on full display. Your many adventures brought together an outlandish cast of Maurer’s. There were the ski adventures, where after a long day of skiing the crew would delve into charades always ending in playful mimicking of Grandma attempting to light a cigarette amidst the howling wind on the ski lift. There were your rodeos, where I stood holding my breath as you challenged fellow linemen to a speed climb complete with raw eggs. There were the many hikes with a varying cast of faithful dogs. Yukon will never forgive you for the blizzard of ’93 where you tasked him with pulling us girls around on skiis. In everything you did, family could be found and my heart understands the importance of love and loyalty.
If you were to peel away the layers of hard work, love, and loyalty, you would find wit blazing out of my core. I learned how to overcome my battle with lymphoma, from watching you win your battle with humor. You were always quick to make others laugh, which in turn left a smile on your face despite all the pain. We laughed together about all of life’s wonderful twists and turns, including the time you spent as a helmsman on the USS Maddox in the Korean War where upon first taking the helm you proudly steered the ship according to command, to find out that you accidentally turned Maddox left and the rest of the fleet went right. You taught the core of my heart that life is full of calamities and laughter turns them into magnificent stories.
And I will never be far from your story for I carry the grace you created; I carry it in my heart.
I love you forever,