Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Notes on a Farewell

Today (8/23) was the funeral of my grandpa Ron Welch who passed away on August 16th, at age 77 after 18 years of some serious health issues. Unfortunately, I can't say that I knew him very well, partly because I grew up on a different continent and partly because he was less and less able to communicate after having brain surgery when I was 3 years old. But I did want to write down a few memories I have of him, to gather in my mind and heart a few of the things that I do remember about him. While you read, you can listen to this love song, partly about goodbyes.

Probably my biggest impression/memory of my Grandpa Ron was his love of good food. He loved black licorice (which I find more and more to be a rarity, and am glad to have the love of it run in the family) and so did his dog Rebel. He almost always had a tub of black cherry ice cream in the freezer, and pretty much led the pack in the far-reaching Welch tradition of ice cream love in general. We still home-make ice cream pretty much every 4th of July, and I'm proud to carry that on to my own little family now. But what he really took to heaven with him that no one will be able to replicate exactly is his absolutely superior method of making tacos. He'd fry corn tortilla shells, fill them with diced tomatoes, shredded beef and melted cheese. But the amazing part was the shredded lettuce seasoned with garlic salt. I don't think that anyone else, even going through all the same steps, could make them quite as delectably.

A few snippets about him that fascinated me are that 1) he once opened a restaurant; don't know much about it, but I think it's pretty awesome all the same 2) his competitiveness in sports rubbed off onto his family in vicious games of spoons, 3) apparently I got my habit of saying "better than a sharp stick in the eye" from him, which I'm always dumbfounded to realize isn't a wide-spread saying and 3) I learned just today that his middle name was Ephraim, which isn't one you hear every day.

One thing I really admired about him and got to see glimpses of was his love for his wife, my Grandma Patty. They were engaged 11 days after they started dating and got married when they were 18. I remember every Christmas that he would buy her so many things, and you could tell he adored her and wanted nothing more than to make her happy. The last time I saw him, he was in the hospital and my Grandma walked up to his bedside with the Valentine card he had given her this year in which he recorded himself singing to her. She opened it up for him again and she was beaming. I'm honored to have the example of a 58 year marriage that remained romantic to the end. Here's a picture from their wedding.

One of my favorite memories that belongs to just me and him was several years ago, now. He was at the point where he rarely entered conversations and it was difficult to tell what he was taking in of what was going on around him. I was turning to leave the TV room, where he loved to watch sports and crime dramas, when he grabbed my hand and asked me if I was engaged. I was not, at the time, though I knew I was going to be soon and I was wearing a ring that looked a lot like an engagement ring. It warmed my heart that he was aware of what was up in my life and that he wanted to know the latest. I promised to let him know when I did get engaged, and I'm very glad he was able to attend my wedding. I wish he could have met my son, but I guess we'll just have to wait a few years until we can all have tacos together in heaven.

When my husband called on his break from work this evening, I was telling him how it had struck me at the memorial service this morning how small, in the grand scheme of things, an individual life is. I was startled and initially saddened that a funeral becomes a 1-hour period in which your whole life can be summed up. I think I would be close to frantic at all the important things people left out, if my life were to be summed up in an hour. But then I realized, while seeing even a few photos from my Grandpa's life and hearing a handful of stories from quite a long life, that ultimately, that is kind of the weight of one life - it's more of a fleeting breath than the earth shaking symphony I sometimes imagine. And best of all for my Grandpa, he enjoyed the time he was given by loving his wife and family, pursuing a career in athletic coaching that really excited him and traveling a fair amount to see a few of earth's wonders while he was here. In the end, I think that's a pretty good way to go about things. 

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