My grandfather, Grandpa Dixon, had been "slowing down" in previous weeks -- low energy, tired, that sort of thing. His doctor finally convinced him that he should get a pacemaker. Grandpa's heart rate had always been low -- 48 - 60 -- and it was something I'd been secretly jealous of during high school. (I was an athlete, a runner, and a point of athletic pride is your resting heart rate. I could never get my resting rate below the mid 50s.) He managed with this configuration all his life, but a little help at this point would be welcome. He hadn't been out on his usual walk around the neighborhood (more like city!) with Grandma for months (more than a year?) and he was getting winded even doing ordinary things like walking up stairs. So he agreed to having a pacemaker installed, scheduled for Tuesday, two days after Linda's birthday celebrations. As Melinda and I left the Dixons' house Sunday night I told Grandpa to enjoy the spotlight and look forward to feeling much better after his operation. He gave Melinda and me a big hug and sent us on our way.
The operation itself went well but the recovery did not. Without reliving specific and unjoyous details, although his heart rate was up his heart and lungs did not respond as expected. Despite tests, treatment, and plans for further surgeries, Grandpa slipped away from us Thursday evening. He was three months shy of his 80th birthday.
Melinda and I flew back to Seattle Friday morning; Melinda was such a dear to come along with me on such short notice. I did a fair bit of crying Thursday night, and I expect I'll have yet more today and this weekend; the services are planned for tomorrow. Grandpa's passing was sudden and unexpected -- pacemaker implant patients sometimes even go home the same day -- so there's been a fair explosion of grieving; we weren't prepared for this event. It's now been a week, and the sad reality is settling in. But I don't want to end with an unhappy note.
Because focusing on a person's passing, and the sadness about that event, would ignore all the happiness, love, and font memories they left during all the rest of that person's life. I have 34 years of memories of Grandpa Dixon (well, okay, I'm hard pressed to recall those experiences when I was only old year old...) and those make me happy. For example. As I look to my left here at my computer I see a bookcase filled with coins, from cents to dollars and from three different centuries. I started collecting coins because of Grandpa Dixon, and he and I both enjoyed talking about collecting and coins, going to coin shows together (in Tukwila and in Santa Clara, near where I live now), and giving each other coins for the holidays. Or another: growing up, Mom, Dad, Casey, and I would play games each Saturday night, often having Linda over. At some point this turned into games at the Dixons', where we'd play cards, dominos, or Yahtzee. Grandma and Grandpa would have snacks out -- cheese, crackers, meats -- and they'd always have a refrigerator full of soda. Here in California I've adopted much the same tradition: friends over on Friday nights, and I always have a refrigerator full of a dozen or more different kinds of soda. Or another: Through the 80s and 90s Grandma and Grandpa traveled extensively, often around visiting and photographing lighthouses. In fact The 4 C's Enterprises, LLC, was born in order to sell CD-ROMs of a selection of these photographs. Melinda and I both have a predilection for traveling, and as I recall on many occasions hearing about the stories of going to Greece, or Australia, or the Great Lakes, Melinda and I look forward to bringing back our own stories to share.
I have many other memories of Grandpa, but the gestalt is of someone who, perhaps at times was gruff, loved his family dearly, was proud of his and others accomplishments, and was happy with his life. I already miss him, as do the other people who were close to him. But I'm going to focus on those years of experiences I did get to share and look forward to occasionally sharing those stories with other people. Good bye, Grandpa.