It’s hard to know where to start this post. Tonight we got the call that Ray’s grandfather finally took his last breath. I am so relieved that he is at peace. He was so sick and so tired for so long. I know he must feel so much better now. I know his family will mourn his absence. I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter how your parent goes or when, it hurts. I’m thankful that Ray’s dad was there with him. I’m thankful that he showed up and was able to say goodbye. I know how much harder it can be when you don’t have that chance.

This is one of the last pictures I have of Grandpa Stiff. It makes me smile to remember that day. These last few years when we visited it was hard to see if he was excited or happy but I honestly think he was thrilled to see Tucker. He may not have recognized the rest of us, but he knew a good dog when he saw him.

I started combing through all of my other digital pictures looking for a good one of Grandpa. I don’t have any. I can’t remember the year he got hit by a car while riding his bicycle. I don’t even know how old he was. All the good pictures that I have of him are hard images, not digital. I do have this…

That’s Hanan. She’s the one that I think looks most like me. On Saturday someone looked at her and said, “She smiles just like you do,” like it totally surprised them. Hanan has been my chameleon child. Some of her pictures look exactly like my sweet grandmother. Sometimes my friends from college look at her and can’t believe she has blonde hair because she looks so much like me. I have a confession. From about four-months old to about nine-months old, Hanan looked exactly like Paul Harold Stiff. That, my friends is his smile. That smile right there on that six-month old girl is how I will forever remember him.

We’ve lived away from home since about six months after we got married. If our sixteen years of marriage, this is the closest that we’ve lived since that first six months. It’s easy to feel the distance and let it soak in but Grandpa Stiff no matter where we were held a special place in my heart. While I’m just an in-law, it’s my blog and a keepsake for my children and it is now a place to share memories of a treasured family member.

Some of the things I remember about Paul Stiff…

  • He walked everywhere until his last accident put him in the hospital. Before he walked he rode a bike…everywhere. That man in his seventies was probably in better shape than I am now.
  • He loved to tease me. He loved telling me not to have them cuttin’ worms (children) before we had them and then he would tell me to “quit havin’ them cuttin’ worms!” after I started having kids.
  • He would smack me on the arm when he thought something was funny. After one trip to IL my arm was bruised because he hung out with me almost the whole time. I would love to have a sore bicep right this second.
  • If Grandpa wanted a beer, I knew to jump for a glass and the salt shaker. The man was brilliant! I don’t like beer. I’ve never acclimated to the taste unless salt is involved. Forget the lime… a glass and a salt shaker and maybe some nachos and we’re all good.
  • Grandpa had to be coaxed into a story. The story was always better if he had a little nip first. I could listen to them forever once he got going. He would talk about working on the river and Cairo, IL back in it’s glory days.
  • He was up before dawn and in bed before sunset.
  • I loved to spoil Grandpa Stiff. I bought him some flavored tea bags once from way out there in Virginia. I think he gave everyone a fit looking for the good tea.
  • That old coot had way more than nine lives. Just while Ray and I were married he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle…more than once. He caught himself on fire. His last accident involved a fall and a fight with a concrete culvert. The culvert won. We were told every year since then around Thanksgiving that he would die before Christmas and his sentence would increase to the new year. Then Easter would creep along. Friday night, he had a stroke in his sleep. Ray got the call that he would most likely pass sometime on Saturday. Ray and I looked at each other. We agreed. That old coot was a fighter. He continued to fight fevers and seizures until Monday night when his heart finally gave up.
  • The thing that I truly loved about Grandpa Stiff is that when we would make that long trek to IL, he made sure he sat down and talked to me. He made me comfortable. He made sure I was loved no matter what chaos was happening around him. I’m pretty sure he made everyone feel like that. I like to think that he loved me best šŸ˜‰
  • Maybe it was because we didn’t see him often, but if there is one thing that I hope my girls pick up from Ray’s grandpa it is how happy he was. He had a long, hard life. That man was always telling me a joke. I never heard him complain. He was so wonderfully good natured every time I was around him. He would tell me that he was just fine no matter what his circumstances were.

I told the girls tonight, Grandpa Stiff told me story after story about his little sister who died. I’m quite certain that he was just thrilled to see her again. I bet he walks every golden street in heaven and picks up a few cans along the way. I’ll miss him being here but I’m so very thankful that where he is, he is healthy, has his mind back and knows just how loved he was. If I could get cup of good tea, a red flannel shirt and a cap to him, I would.

Rest in peace old man.