I got married at the tail end of March 2015. My father's father was not able to attend as he was in failing health. He passed away a few weeks later and thankfully we were able to focus on the wedding as a salve.
My grandfather was a veteran of two wars. He got a military funeral in a cold April rain. My family still has the flag and the plaque, proudly displayed with President Obama's signature.
In the following months I learned exactly what an unabashed asshole my grandfather was. He and my grandmother never planned to grow old and had no retirement. Instead of selling a home they simply defaulted on their mortgage and moved out. He promised to repay my father's student loans. It was a nice promise until the collection agents called my dad.
He was kind but acerbic. I loved him and thought he was progressive since he embraced my aunt when she came out and let my dad work as a bus boy in an illegal gay bar in the 60s. I later learned my aunt's relationship with my grandparents was terse and functional.
My mom has said of my father's parents that they had kids because that's what you did, not because they wanted to raise a family.
Like I said, kind of an asshole.
But today I can't help but think he saved my sister's life and I wish he was around to save my cousin's.
My grandfather was a Corp Man in the Navy. I had no idea what that was until I asked. I learned he was a field medic. During World War II and Korea my grandfather was on the front lines and he saved men. He saw a lot of men die.
He never talked about it.
The stories he would share are the ones from his first tour of duty. His boat once had to rescue a provisions ship. The result was they all had to eat ice cream for a week. That's a great story to tell children, right?
He never talked about Korea. He felt swindled. He joined the Reserves to hang out with his drinking buddies when war broke out. He had a family and was not happy. He did his duty. He saved men.
He saw some shit.
When my sister was contemplating how to pay for medical school she had considered the army. Grandpa heard and he was not having it. He talked her out of it.
My sister is now a doctor. I'm pretty sure Grandpa saved her life.
My cousin is getting close to graduating high school. He's being raised by my other aunt as a single mother. Later in life my grandparents moved in with them and our grandfather became a stabilizing force in my cousin's life.
At my sister's wedding this past weekend I asked my aunt my cousin still wanted my help with the college process. She somberly replied he wanted to join the Navy.
I have to be an asshole now and I will do so gladly.
I love you Grandpa. I miss you.
But I'm really happy you died under Obama so that we didn't have to destroy the recognition of your service.