A Letter to Heaven

Patty Blake
Patty Blake

Dear Grandpa,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I miss you. You died a few months before my 20th birthday. Two-thirds of my life here on earth has been without you. So many of the people I love never knew you.

Actually, though, I only knew the last 20 years of your life. But in that brief time, I came to love and admire you so much.

Your death was the first time I lost someone close to me. It devastated Grandma. Her heart broke. She was never the same from that day until eight years later when she joined her “darling husband,” as I remember her calling you.

Grandpa, a few months after you died, I met the man I would marry, the one who now takes such good care of me as ALS continues its never-ending raids on what little physical strength I have left. You would like him, Grandpa. Though, had you met him back in 1976 I’m certain you would have had a thing or two to say about the length of his hair. It’s much shorter now. 🙂

I’m a mother, Grandpa! Alan and I were blessed with two lovely daughters. And they in turn had their own wonderful Grandpa. I treasure the memories of my father-in-law who was like you in some ways. My girls have each found their loves, and you would approve. They treat your great-granddaughters with love and respect. They are good men, and I am proud to call them sons.

I am sorry that so many of the people I have loved never had the opportunity to know you, Grandpa. They missed knowing one of the kindest, funniest, strongest, most creative, practical, inventive, playful, and yet dignified men ever to walk this earth.

Grandpa, I can remember so clearly being bounced on your knee, and you playfully pretending to let me fall, just to make me squeal and laugh. Your strong hands never let me go.

After the divorce, you and Grandma were our rock. Mom had to work, so you both stepped up to make sure Doug and I got to school and got home safely. When we were sick you were there. During school breaks we moved into your house. That house was as much “home” as our own.

Grandpa, you could fix anything. And if the solution to a problem didn’t exist, you would simply create one. TV commercials annoyed you so you devised a switch connected to the TV by a cord running from the TV to your recliner, around the perimeter of the living room. A DIY “mute button” way back in the 1960s. You would love all the electronic gadgets we have now!

Your solution to the problem of birds feasting on the ripening fruit on the backyard peach tree is legendary in our family. Clusters of shiny aluminum pie pans hanging in the tree was clever. But you took this up a level by the addition of a string running from those pie pans to the kitchen window. A remote “trigger!” The birds thought the coast was clear and flocked to the tempting peaches and then, with a sharp tug on that string, those pans shook and clattered! Birds exploded from the tree while, in the kitchen, the family exploded with laughter. It may have been silly, but at least we got to enjoy Grandma’s yummy peach preserves and cobblers.

You and Grandma could grow anything. Grandma loved her Gerbera daisies, gladiolus, roses, ranunculus and sweet-faced violas. But I remember that the sweet peas were your special project. You carefully prepared the soil in that narrow strip between the driveway and the neighbor’s cinder block wall, installed a trellis, planted the seeds, and tended to the little plants so lovingly. And, oh! What a harvest of sweetly scented bouquets filled the house for weeks!

Your quiet ways made us all love you so. I remember when I would spend the night, if I happened to wake up early, I smelled the coffee and cigarette smoke that told me Grandpa was in the kitchen enjoying his quiet time. I knew it was okay to join you, but it would be a silent “conversation” because (a) you did not yet have your hearing aid on, and (b) no teeth yet. So I would sit quietly as you stirred a splash of Carnation evaporated milk into your coffee, smoke from your cigarette curling up to where the early morning light shone in through the high window over the fridge.

My memories of you include funny faces you made when Grandma’s back was turned (including sticking out your lower dentures just to make us laugh.) I see you at work on something at your workbench in the garage, doing yard work in your pith helmet, cooking breakfast and waking up Grandma by hitting a pot with a spoon (or was it another pot?), and so much more.

And I remember you reaching for the stack of bills on my Mommy’s desk as you left our house on more than one occasion. This was you loving your family by easing your daughter’s burden. And this grandchild thanks you.

I am the proud granddaughter of a retired United States Marine captain. It was always fun riding along as you ran errands, especially when those errands involved going onto a Navy base. The sailor at the gate would be casually waving cars through. But when he saw the sticker on your car, he would snap smartly to attention and give a sharp salute.

Grandpa, I love you and Grandma so much. I guess you are on my mind so often because this disease is wearing me down. I feel that we will see each other again soon, and I look forward to that. At the same time, this means I will be leaving so many dear ones here. That thought hurts. I don’t want to cause pain.

Life goes on, I know. It did after you died. It will after I’m gone, too. I don’t yet understand how heaven works, and how I cannot be homesick for the people I love. I’ll just trust God about that.

See you soon, Grandpa.

Love, Patty