Thursday, December 16, 2010
I only learned a few years ago that James was not his birth name, though he was likely to punch you in the nose if you tried to call him by that other name. He was Papa to me. In my world, he was the inspiration for Grumpy Old Men, Big Fish and Mickey Rooney's character Gus in Night at the Museum, though, it is unlikely that any of those script-writers knew my Papa. He was as rough and tough as the Cowboy movies he watched so often, but his weakness for pinching the chubby cheeks of his great grandchildren leads me to believe that it was all a facade. He suffered a stroke and was pronounced dead in the hospital...and then went on to live another 20 years (talk about tough). He had a pace-maker put in, he had tuberculosis, diabetes, lost half of one foot and all of the other foot, due to diabetes, but he still refused to sit around and be idle. He would still use the push-mower from his motorized wheel chair, invent contraptions to help him lower and clean out his purple martin birdhouse. I remember visiting him in his rehab after they took half his leg off. He was working the exercise machines before the therapist even got there and refused to stop after his sessions were over. When the therapist had him practice moving from a wheel chair to a mock-bathtub, he did it in one try and told the guy "piece of cake, what else ya got". He was walking on his new prosthetic leg the next time I saw him.
He died this morning, December 16, 2010, 5:10am EST. at the age of 87. I am heading home to be with my family, and we will probably exchange stories of him that will make us laugh until we cry. I will miss him so, so much. I hope he's resting peacefully in whatever his heaven might be: probably the old hunting camp, or the perfect fishing hole.