Tuesday, July 21, 2009


His name was Lyle Jacob Colclasure, but everyone called him Jake. I never called him that of course. He was just "Pa" to me. Five foot nothing and hair like white silk. My father, Jake's son, used to talk about how harsh Pa was when my father was growing up. I never knew him that way. To me, he embodied all that a grandfather should. Warmth, love, humor, affection...this was the Pa I knew.

Going to Pa's house almost always meant homemade ice-cream and turns swaying on the hammock. Hummingbirds stayed well-fed in the feeders he and Gram put out and I remember vividly, sitting on the front porch at Pa's drinking Gram's homemade lemonade and listening to the buzz of the hummingbirds. Such was life at Pa's place.

I was in my thirties when Pa first saw an ATM machine. My sister and I were going to take him and Gram to lunch and we pulled up to an ATM to withdraw some money. Pa was confused. "Well, where's the money come from?!" Pa had only dealt with the teller, whom he knew by name, in the bank of the little remote rural town where he spent the latter part of his life.

My grandfather had been a professional jockey in his younger days and therefore was diminutive in stature. I loved how small he was. He was the perfect kid-sized grandpa. He was big enough, however, to hold me down and tickle my feet until I laughed so hard I cried.

My Pa taught me how to tie my shoelaces.

Pa also taught me, without words, what love looks like. He and my Gram finished each other's sentences and she knew exactly what he was pointing to at the dinner table and would pass it to him without a word being spoken between them. They spent over fifty years loving each other.

Pa developed Alzheimer's a year or two before Gram passed away. Alzheimer's is a vicious and vile beast that brutally robs both the victims and those they love. When Gram could no longer care for Pa on her own, he was moved to a nursing home. I think it's what did Gram in.

At Gram's funeral, Pa seemed very lucid. He stood over Gram and cried and spoke softly to her. At the cemetery, as they lowered her casket into the ground, he cried and touched her casket and said, "Goodbye, Sweet Mama." He knew she was gone, and that was about the end of him. His mind faded fast, but his tiny body refused to quit.

Last week, Pa began refusing food and water. We knew it was only days before he would leave us. On July 19th, at 4:12 a.m., Jake's body had finally had enough.

His death marks the end of an era in my life. The Era of Grandparents. He was the last and I'm trying to adjust my brain to the reality that I am without grandparents.

The adjusting process has been going on for a while now. As Nancy Reagan once said, Alzheimer's is, "the long, long goodbye."

I didn't know Jake the man, really. I only knew Pa. And, the Pa I knew had a life worth celebrating. He and my Grandmother left us beautiful warm memories and the knowledge that we were loved. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful inheritance.

My grandfather's funeral is today. If I had just one more chance to be with him, I would ask him to to turn the crank on the old ice-cream machine one last time while I sat on the quilt that covered the bucket. I would tell him how much I loved him and how the memories that he and Gram made for me are the most cherished of my childhood. I would reach out to him, fold my arms around him, kiss that beautiful old leathery cheek of his and whisper goodbye.


Linda Rae said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Amy. The truth is that life is mostly about good-byes.

Of course, there are wonderful hellos and many events in between, but the overarching theme of life is loss, recovery, loss, etc.

My main hope at this point in my own life is that my grandchildren will remember me with love--that's the greatest gift you could give to the memory of those who are gone.

Pass it on--give those wonderful memories to the next generation. It's the best you can do.

Vodka Mom said...

i loved this........sad, and beautifully written.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. What a character he was! A professional jockey? How cool is that.

I'm so sorry for your loss, and also so happy that you had this wonderful relationship with your "Pa."

May he rest in peace.

~JarieLyn~ said...

This made me cry. I thought it was beautiful.

ellen abbott said...

I'm so sorry Amy. What wonderful memories. I never had a grandfather. Both mine died when my parents were teenagers.

lakeviewer said...

Oh Amy, this is a most wonderful tribute. I choked up as I read it.

The Bug said...

Beautiful - and a reminder to cherish the folks in your life NOW while you still have them. My husband's mother was in a car accident in April that caused an acceleration of some dementia that we had already noticed. Now we don't know how much of what we communicate she really understands. And we say, "if we'd only had more time!" So take the time now, with the people you love...

Amy said...

Linda: Thank you. I think your grandchildren will have no problem remembering you with love as that's what I've seen you give to them. I hope you have many years ahead of you to keep making wonderful memories with them.

Vodka Mom: Thanks so much.

Reya: I know you've experienced a recent loss an and it's been so touching to journey with you as you move forward with grace.

Pa really was a character and I feel so very fortunate that he was my grandpa.

JarieLyn: You're so sweet. Thanks very much for the lovely sentiment.

Ellen: You are a reminder to me to be aware of how fortunate I am. My loss has been my focus, but I need to remember that there are many people who never had the chance to experience life with loved ones and that's a loss all in itself. Thank you so much for your comment.

Rosaria: Many thanks. I appreciate it very much.

Bug: So true. In Buddhism, they teach to be "present and aware." It's an incredibly difficult practice but it helps greatly with being in each moment completely and being aware of its impermanence.

I'm so sorry about your husband's mother. Thank you for your compassion.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

That was such a sweet post about your Pa. When two people have spent that much time in love, it's hard to view them as separate. I'm sure your Pa's heart broke after your Grandma passed away.

He seemed to be a very wonderful man.

Amy said...

Daydreams: Thanks so much for dropping by the blog and for taking the time to leave a comment. I truly appreciate your sentiment, and you're right...they've always been Gram AND Pa. And, yes. I believe the both passed away with broken hearts. I hope that even with Alzheimer's, that Pa still had memories of Gram somewhere tucked away.

Fragrant Liar said...

Oh man. That's a toughie. I'm sorry for your loss, sweetie. Nothing like a loving grandparent. When my grandfather died (I was 12), I was heartsick four about two decades. I still think of him and feel a little pull in the pit of my chest. I don't have grandparents anymore either, and my parents are the great grandparents to my grandchildren. Life goes on, and doesn't give us near enough time with our loved ones.


Amy said...

FL: Many, many thanks. The world does just keep spinning 'round, doesn't it? The Circle of Life is a natural part of our existence, yet it feels so unnatural to be without the ones we love.

Thanks for the hug. It's very much appreciated.

@eloh said...

So sorry for your loss. My mom passed of Alzheimers in March. I took care of her every minute the last two years of her life. It was a horrible way to go. She stayed in perfect health right to the end..then with in hours her brain just stopped.

Amy said...

Eloh: I'm so very sorry about your mother. That must have been incredibly difficult for you. Thank you for sharing that and as always, thanks for stopping by to visit.

Angela said...

You can`t TELL him anymore, Amy, but now that is soul is light again he will know! And with all the mistakes we make in life, how wonderful to know that our grandchildren love us unconditionally. I hope mine will remember me one day like you do yours. And in passing your Gram`s ice-cream recipes to me, she is even remembered here in far away Germany!

AmyWW said...

Oh, Amy. I'm so sorry your Pa is gone.

Amy said...

Angela: Yes, and my Gram would be what she called, "tickled" to know that you are enjoying her ice cream all the way over in Germany!

Amy: Thank you.

Angie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I really like the picture you used for this entry.

Laggin said...

This particular "beast" lives within my almost 100 year old grandmother too. My other grandmother died with severe dementia. Seems I am doomed.

Tessa said...

Amy, that is without doubt the most heartwarming, most beautiful tribute to a beloved and loving Grandpapa I have ever read. Thank you so very much for sharing Pa with us in that way. Such tender memories you have to hold on to - and that is more precious than any treasure.

Hamba khale, Pa - go gently.

Amy said...

Tessa: Oh, thank you, Tessa. "Go gently," is the best we can hope for, isn't it? Thank you, thank you. You always know just the right thing to say.

Amy said...

Laggin: Oh, please don't say that! Even in the face of apparent inevitablility, have hope! My eye doctor looked at me the other day and said, "You're 40. You're going to need reading glasses soon." I asked him whether that was just because I was in my 40's now or because he detected weakness in my eyes. The answer was, "Because you're in your 40's. It happens to everyone." I told him that I'm going to defy human nature, by golly!

Hope, hope and always hope, my friend.