Monday, December 11, 2006

The Passing

Saturday night, after living for ten years in a nursing home in a near catatonic state, my grandfather passed away from complications arising from pneumonia.

He was 99.

A true renaissane man, he spoke three languages, was an accomplished pianist, a watercolor painter, an author of both fiction and non-fiction, an avid gardener, an amateur vintner, a bicyclist, and a family doctor. He retired from medicine at age 70 and dedicated the rest of his life to tracing his family roots here in the Northeast. He finally produced a book, titled A Connecticut Yankee In Penn's Woods, that tells the life-story of one of those relatives, a man named Thomas Bennett who settled in Wyoming Valley, PA in the early 1700s. (One of Thomas' descendants, Martha Myers, had a grandson named Stephen Crane who eventually wrote the Red Badge of Courage.) In his 70s and 80s my grandfather and his wife, the lovely Ginny, went on countless bike trips across France, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, England and the United States. I still have some of his sketches and notes from one trip to France. Some day I hope to visit the specific restaurants and hotels he visited and to write an accounting of my travels.

Even though I'm sad that he's gone, I'm also relieved that his suffering is over: unable to speak or move of his own volition, none of us knew how much he knew about what was going on around him in that nursing home. And yet for ten years, every day my grandmother visited him--to feed him his lunch; to tell him about her day. To kiss his cheek and tell him she loved him. And every visit she wore the same perfume, Estee Lauders' White Linen, so that he would know that it was her beside him. If not by touch or feel or sound, than by scent.

3 Comments:

Blogger Gardenia said...

What a legacy these grandparents left you! I'm so sorry for those last years were so sad for such a wonderful mind and man. I cried when I read about your grandmother coming every day to see him. Again, what a legacy - you have inherited some of his brilliance I believe.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

that's so beautiful, mj!

what an incredible legacy he left for you and the rest of his family. he sounds like an amazing man, and i'm so glad you got to know him before he passed.

and that last section is amazing... what a beautiful relationship!

12:19 PM  
Blogger Tanya said...

A touching tribute. I am sorry for your loss. I found you through TheHealingRoom. I'll be sure to stop by again.

3:13 PM  

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