They met at the university, ages 16 and 17. He was the top student in the engineering class her brother student taught and president of the ROTC. When he was 19 and she was 18, they told their parents they were going to marry and his mother fainted. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
Grandpa attended MIT, Cornell and received his masters degree from Stanford. For almost forty years he worked as a rocket scientist for Hughes Aircraft. All those smarts, all that education, and in the end he didn’t know the names of his seven children. Eventually, he forgot his wife.
It started small -- confusion in the grocery store, misdealt cards, falling down. He fell down a lot. Repeatedly, he lost the dog. Sometimes he lost himself. He took to hiding in his office when company, even his children, came. He hid until he disappeared.
He died in the fall.
At the funeral the siblings shared lessons they’d learned from their dad, and I found it touching that the boys (analytical brainy types all) were more emotional than their sisters. Thirty of his grandchildren sang Love is Spoken Here. As I was sitting at the piano, I couldn’t see their faces, but I watched them come forward, tall, amazingly handsome and beautiful. Their song matched their beauty. Then the great grandchildren sang and I realized that even though we’d lost grandpa, we have a new crop of people to know and love. Grandpa has 149 posterity.
They buried Grandpa high on a hill in a cemetery in the Avenues of Salt Lake. After Uncle Richard’s dedicatory prayer the girls laid red roses and the boys placed red carnations on his casket. Our family stopped for ice-cream at the Hatch Family Chocolate Shop on our way back to the chapel. It seemed appropriate, because Grandpa ate ice-cream nearly every evening.
For years we shared the holidays with Grandpa and Grandma. Christmas afternoon, our family would pile into the van and drive up the San Bernardino Mountains. We’d pass the Cliffhanger restaurant and drive through Blue Jay Village. Aunts, uncles and cousins usually joined us and we’d party for days. Grandma supplied candy and food. Grandpa provided games and tucked little gold envelopes filled with money into the tree.
When the drive up and down the mountain became too difficult, Grandpa and Grandma sold their home in Lake Arrowhead and moved to Saint George. In the spring, when life became too difficult they moved to Salt Lake. In the summer, Grandpa moved to an assisted living facility.
Although it’s been a few months now, Grandma is slowly settling into her new home. She lives ten minutes away from two daughters and has a host of grandchildren nearby. A few days before Christmas, Grandma found a little gold envelope among Grandpa’s files. Without opening it, she tucked it into the Christmas tree and saved it for Christmas morning. She would spend the day with a daughter and her family, but the morning she would be alone, for the first time.
It must have been a very quiet Christmas morning for her, so different from the bustle of our holidays spent in Lake Arrowhead. The children and even the grandchildren are grown and gone, busy with their own lives. The candy, the games, the laughter – even Grandpa, gone. Except for the one gold envelope. She pulled it out, opened it, and found $100.
And felt Grandpa near.