Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Valentine’s Day & The 4th of July

So those are two holidays that don’t seem to have much in common, but they happen to be my grandfather’s birthday, and the day he died. He was born on Valentine’s Day, and died on July 4th (one of the things going on during my blogging break).

I called him Dad Dog. There were a lot of grandparents when I was born. Three sets of grandparents (my mom’s parents had divorced and both remarried) and one set of great grandparents still living. The decision was made to come up with different names for all of them so as not to confuse me. (You’re kind of spoiled by the grandparents if you happen to be the first grandchild.)

Dad Dog always had some sort of menagerie of animals he was caring for. It was puppies when I was little, and still puppies when my sister was little. By the time my cousin came along it was ducks. She called him Daddy Duck.

Dad Dog was 87, and they were 87 mostly packed years. He joined the Merchant Marines at 16, and later joined the Air Force, where he served for over 25 years.

After his military service he became a state park ranger, and later worked in a campground. I think the change was for something happier, because he saw some pretty terrible and gruesome things during his service.

Dad Dog was no saint. He had a bit of a temper, was stubborn to a fault, and had a very, let’s say colorful, vocabulary. My sister, my cousin, and I all learned some very inappropriate phrases very young.

It’s hard to sum up 87 years in one blog post. He taught me how to ride a bike. He was the first animal rescuer I knew. He ate Reese’s Pieces like they were going out of style. He and my grandmother were married for over 66 years.

He loved having only granddaughters. He’d had a series of mini strokes shortly before Nick and I got married, and there was a very real chance that I was going to be the only granddaughter whose wedding he made it to, so we came up with the idea for a special dance with all of us. We chose Dean Martin’s I Wish You Love, and he started with me, then my sister "cut in", then my cousin "cut in" and it finished with my aunt "cutting in". Dad Dog loved it. He was very emotional, and crying by the time it was over, but was so happy. I’m glad we did it. Mine was the only granddaughter’s wedding he made it to. And I think the song was appropriate.

My aunt summed up his life well when she said his birthday and last day showed a man with a big heart who served our country well.