Bringing Grandpa Home

My Real Memoir

Somewhere along the line Grandma and Grandpa McLaughlin had moved from Los Angeles to the foot of California’s San Gabriel Mountains. Dating back to the early 1900s, the town of Upland was full of half-timbered craftsman homes with river-rock porches. It seemed quaintly old-fashioned to a boy whose squeaky new suburb was still being built around him.

Like Upland, my grandparents seemed quaintly old-fashioned, too, even though they were only in their 50s. Grandpa Frank had been a dashing WWI flying ace. And I still picture Grandma Johnnie Belle–who owned an antique shop next to Grandpa’s glass shop, and worked part time at Knott’s Berry Farm–in a calico pioneer dress.

There were no interstate highways to Upland then, so our overland trips to visit seemed pioneerish, as well—if, that is, the pioneers’ covered wagons had stopped for burgers and root beer at A&W. Or passed a church with a neon cross featuring the words “Jesus Saves” (I was so clueless about religion, I thought it was a bank).

But this trip was different. Grandpa’s emphysema, fed by a lifetime of smoking, had triggered a heart attack! Still, after a bit of bed rest and oxygen, he’d recovered quickly. So we’d come to the hospital to take him and Grandma home. My wiry, muscular little man’s-man of a grandfather looked out of place in a hospital bed. He knew this, and put us at ease with a joke and a laugh. Except that his laughter soon turned to a cough. And the coughing wouldn’t stop.

A nurse hurried us out of the room. A minor set-back. He’d have to take it easy before returning to his power tools and gymnastics. And no more smoking! Twenty minutes later, the doctor came in. Grandma asked, “Will he have to stay longer?”

“No,” the doctor replied, “he…your husband has passed.”

It didn’t make any sense. Grandpa was only 58 years old. Just a week earlier I’d watched him execute a perfect iron cross on the rings at a family Valentine’s Day picnic (the hospital still had paper hearts on its walls). We were going to go out to dinner. “He had a massive heart,” they explained, “and we couldn’t revive him.”

It was the first time anyone I knew had died, much less begun to die in my presence. I didn’t know how to process the information. Grandpa had always been so strong, so real. But now, in an instant, he’d become a memory and death had become real.

Oddly enough, the other thing I remember about that week was that, after Grandpa Frank’s requiem mass a few days later, we ate at his favorite restaurant (the one we were supposed to have had dinner at with him), and I had onion soup for the first time. I hated raw onions, but cooked in a rich broth with cheese on top, they were wonderful. Things changed. Grandpas died. Onions tasted good. Things that hadn’t gone together, suddenly did. Things like life and death. And I now knew something I hadn’t known before: you had to savor this life…

Because it wouldn’t last forever.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Bringing Grandpa Home

  1. ejstoo says:

    Sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Mitch – this was a heartfelt story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Such a sad, sweet story.

    I like the Jesus Saves Bank.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Roadtirement says:

    Well penned, sir. Well penned indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Neese says:

    Family losses are hard on kids. It changes your outlook. I lost my brother when I was almost 8 and he was 12. Although it happened in 1958, there’s not a day goes by where Larry’s not in my thoughts…

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Pingback: Headed for Home? Or Headed for Hell? | Mitch Teemley

  7. Caroll says:

    Lovely tribute to your grandpa and an essential reminder to all of us.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Neese says:

    Our family was never the same…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You write so beautifully. Grandpa would be proud…

    Liked by 5 people

  10. joannie6535 says:

    Such a sad memory with a great message.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is so sad loosing our family members . I love your writing Mitch . Thanks Anita

    Liked by 1 person

  12. C.A. Post says:

    “savor life…Because it wouldn’t last forever.” Umm, but it DOES!
    “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26
    When you read my obituary, if it says, “C.A. Post died on… at…” do NOT believe it for even a minute. I will be more ALIVE than I ever was here on earth!
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Your grandparents must have been wonderful people–hard-working, full of life, taking all with a sense of humor. I’m sorry your childhood was marred by your grandfather’s death.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Heartfelt and beautiful, Mitch! And I love the “Jesus Saves” bank!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mark Johnson says:

    What a story. You told it beautifully. The perfect illustration of the fleeting nature of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. pastorpete51 says:

    These experiences are too big to express them with only words…but you have done a wonderful job of shooting close to the mark. Thanks Mitch for sharing this corner of your heart with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. karanoel says:

    What a tender, well-told memory. Makes me wish I had known Grandpa Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a shocking, sad event for your grandmother and all of you involved. Everything can change in an instant.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a beautifully written story. Treasurer each day and the people you are with.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. So wonderfully writen! Thnk you

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Daily Poetry says:

    Beautifully written, treasure your loved ones because life is fleeting.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. TEP336 says:

    Those are the memories that we learn the most from. Thanks, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Absolutely beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Mitch, from your current vantage point in life, you shared a childhood trauma with beauty and grace. The juxtaposition, “Things changed. Grandpas died. Onions tasted good” struck me, it’s powerful.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. revruss1220 says:

    A beautiful story… well told.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Nancy Richy says:

    Mesmerizing. The story of life – the enchanting times and this mortal coil – forever intertwined. Lovely, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Ann Coleman says:

    That must have been so hard! But you did a great job of turning your grief into a life lesson for us all…..

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Co-incidentally, I attended a funeral earlier today. A wonderful service for an almost ninety year old, taken by “you know what”.
    Your perceptions of death as a child are interesting to me, who came to know about it, and accept it, as a part of life from a seven-year-old. Not that I was in the presence of someone passing at that age. Later, though, I was privileged to be there in person on several occasions. We Westerners seem to want to fear the moment. It doesn’t have to be that way.
    But none of that diminishes the sense of loss and confusion you must have experienced in that particular moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Mary Sweeney says:

    I’m sorry you had to witness this at a young age, Mitch. Your memoir posts always pull me in. It feels as if you take us back there. What a gift this will be for your daughters and grandkids (when you get some). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. So sorry Mitch. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt and special memory. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Mitch Magic in the way you tell this story. Thanks for sharing it. God bless!

    Liked by 2 people

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