My purse is littered with dark sunglasses, clear lipgloss and crumpled kleenexes. My feet are sore from wearing my cute black heels all day. My mind wanders to the last time we talked. I know I told you I loved you, I hope I said it more than once.
When they talked of your military history and service, how when you were captured and imprisoned, the words washed over me like familiar water. Stories that I'd heard all my life, sitting at your feet. I would look at you and try to imagine youth upon your face. I can hear you saying the words so matter-of-factly….not dramatically or heroically. Your words were always humble and even though the things you described were too much for my child's mind to imagine, I still knew you were a hero.
When we pulled up to the graveside and I saw the men and women standing at attention waiting to carry you, the tears rolled. I told Russell I hoped those servicemen knew why they were there. I hoped they knew your story. I wanted them to know who they were honoring with their guns and bugles.
It was cold outside but clear and not windy. We gathered with aunts and uncles and sisters. Cousins and friends. The laughter came easier then as different stories were told. I thought, "this is the first time I've been with these people without you here" and that came bitter. Then when photo albums were pulled out with pictures of people I loved, my eyes searched the faces. I wanted to see an expression I remembered, a look I adored. Your smile and laughter were present and your eyes sparkled with intelligence and wit. When the sun set and it was time to go, we gathered up our children. They cried as we left, wanting to play with their cousins who had become friends.
It was dark when we drove home. Russell reached over and held my hand and patted my arm and it felt safe to cry then. Tears of loss and remorse and joy and hope and longing and remembering and heartache and sorrow and beauty and truth and most of all Love. You were an American hero, a WWII veteran, a B-17 pilot, a former Prisoner of War, a man who returned. But you were also just Grandpa…the one who made me feel special and loved and pretty. You were good with your hands, could grow and fix anything. Your grumpy demeanor was like soft pudding. Your calloused hands were gentle and warm. Your eyes twinkled when you teased and you made really good popcorn. You were the hardest working man I've ever known who gave all not only to your country, but to your family. And just like a good story worth telling, yours is full of goodness, kindness, mercy and love. And will be told and retold again and again.