Consistent. That's the best word I know to describe my grandfather. He always sent my birthday card a few days early, gave me new pearl earrings or another piece of jewelry each Christmas, planned regular trips around the world and loved my grandmother for most of her life (they married when she was 19) and never was quite as happy after she died. He kept notes I'd sent him, cards he'd given her, his own report cards and my mother's diploma from finishing school. His outfits were all fairly similar, perhaps a result of having to wear an Army uniform and later a white coat every day for many years. He accepted creative forms of payment for his services as a physician when his patients couldn't afford his care, and he kept medicines for years after their expressed expiration date, certain of their continued efficacy, despite the bottle with the weathered label or tattered envelope the pills came in.
Because he lived in Columbus, Ohio for all of my childhood spent in South Carolina, I only saw he and my grandmother for holidays and the occasional summer vacation. The intimacy of our relationship is reflected in the names we called them- Grandfather Dwight and Grandmother Joann. And yet I always loved seeing him, loved the games at his house and the presents he would bring back from his travels. A pink striped dress from Switzerland (or Germany?), a faux Panda hide/rug from who knows where. I cheered for Ohio State, after the Clemson Tigers of course, because he cheered for Ohio State, and I chose Greek life after my grandmother took me to by the OSU Kappa Delta house. I didn't go KD, but I wore her pin with mine (in violation of all kind of sorority rules) on my wedding day.
When my cousin Alyx was born, he became "Papa" to her, hence the initials GPD for GrandPa Dwight. But he never quite felt like a Papa to me. He was quiet and didn't say too much, but what he said was wise and knowledgeable. Because he didn't say too much, at least with us, my brothers and I took great joy in getting a smile or a laugh out of him. I was honored to have shared in a few of those with him during his last stay in the hospital. He knew history well, appreciated classical music and spoke of theatre he'd seen on London's West End, was interested in politics and specifically my political work, and on football Saturdays could be found watching the Buckeyes. He saw them win just days before he died and couldn't be bothered while they were on TV. He was so smart and loved watching Jeopardy because he knew most of the answers. He was a faithful volunteer at Inniswood, a beautiful collection of gardens and a nature preserve near his home.
He enjoyed his hot tea and requested ice cream the night before he passed away. My mother likes fruit cake, and so each Christmas, he sent her a huge fruit cake in mid-December so she'd have plenty of time to enjoy it.He was generous in taking us on big family trips, and two of my most memorable Christmases were spent on cruise ships with him and the rest of my family. I'm so thankful that one of those trips took place, to Mexico, just this past year! He didn't leave the boat for too many excursions but had a wonderful time visiting at meals and enjoying the ship's amenities.
It's no surprise then that just recently he asked my mom if we would like to go again this year. We knew he probably didn't have too much time left, but I think he thought he'd leave the hospital and return to his apartment at his beloved Friendship Village and resume bingo-playing every Friday night. His passing Sunday morning was a bit of a surprise to us all, as my mom and I had spent great time with him Sunday evening, listening to Handel's Water Music and admiring the fall flowers we'd found in the gift shop. He had eaten dinner with cheesecake for dessert, but then the call came to my aunt's house in the middle of the night, alerting us all to the fact he was in quick decline. He simply let go in his sleep at the age of 92, and we were all thankful he did not suffer.
GPD, you will be greatly missed. You were loved and respected, and we are so grateful for the legacy you left behind.
Grandfather Dwight and me as a baby, on a rug he made, 1981
Grandmother Joann and Grandfather Dwight at Disney World, 1998
Christmas at Friendship Village, 2008 0r 2009
so glad GPD could come to our wedding, July 2010
cruising in Mexico, Christmas 2011