The day before yesterday, I had the incredible blessing of spending four hours with my grandfather. I took him to a place where not only he has memories of his own childhood, but where he and I built very unique and special memories together. His wife, my grandmother, recently passed. She and I were incredibly close with a connection that was extremely unique. As I have become older, I become increasingly aware of the great gift this has been to my life. Because of this deep bond, I did not often spend alone time with my grandfather. But one day where we did has always struck a deep chord.
He took me to Cabrillo Beach and the maritime museum just under 25 years ago. We spent the day walking the boardwalk, eating, visiting the museum, and having ice cream. During this point in his life his demeanor was generally distant and many times gruff unless on his boat, and/or traveling. I have come to understand that he was most certainly the product of an environment and legacy thrust upon him as he grew up in his own home. So, this day was even more rare because I experienced a unique view into his sincere love and gentleness towards me and others that I had honestly never seen so freely flow until then. His memories and stories flooded the day. He shared stories about his past- of war, of family, of my father, of sailing, and of his love for my grandmother. I witness tears in his eyes and the heartbreaking silence while he stared at the remnant of a ship whose military personal he help save during his stint in the Navy aboard the USS Conner during World War II. This day so deeply imprinted on my mind because not only did he share so much with abandon not seen before, it also was the day I realized my own sincere and deep adoration for my grandfather.
USS Conner DD-582
As my grandfather has progressed in age and dementia has started it's ugly course, he has actually softened and become that same man I saw that day. Or maybe I should write that he has brought down the barrier that guarded him from being free an vulnerable to the world enough to be who he always was deep down inside. The man that my grandmother saw more than any of us, whom she loved and adored. We have been given a gift at this time in his life where he still can imprint his legacy of love and memories, but the bittersweetness of the Thursday is not lost on me. Dementia is a formidable foe and a treacherous thief. And it is only a matter of time where these imprintable days of legacy will no longer be obtainable. I am so thankful for a grandfather who fights dementia with every bit of strength he has...not just for himself, but for us as well, even though he knows full well the inevitable outcome. He is a man with a profound legacy.
My Grandfather and I on Cabrillo Beach July 7, 2011