Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Grandpa Vern

My grandpa Vern died just before Christmas this year. Really, it was as if he passed a few years ago, his mind wrecked with dimentia. Near the end, he thought the whole family was out to get him. He had some violent episodes. Once he stole the dump truck out back and drove to the neighbors saying he needed to borrow $20,000 to skip town. This was long after my grandma gave all the guns in the house to my brother-in law. Another time he tried boxing my dad. When the episodes started coming more frequently, we had him live with a caretaker family. The veteran's home had kicked him out becuase he was soon labled "a runner" and they weren't equipped for residents hell bent on getting out. Not that he could get too far. He was tough, but his body was pretty broken. Walking a few hundred feet left him wheezing.

The caretakers brought him to church on Saturdays and he'd stay for lunch. One day last summer, my dad and I took him on a drive, the back way up to Pullman, WA. He wanted to visit the fraternity he stayed at when he was a student in the 1940s at WSU. After a lot of looking and stopping to ask pedestrians, we found it. The original building had burned down so the exterior looked completely different. I accompanied him inside and we found a couple of guys in the dinning hall. They were curtious and welcoming to my old-timer grandfather as he reminisced a few stories from his college days. He told them about his boxing days, and how he whuped anybody in the house who wanted to challenge him. As soon as he said it he was quick to point out the folly's of fighting. He said he wouldn't have boxed if he'd done it over.

Vern came from a fighter family. His dad and older brothers used to beat him until his body was covered in bruises. One day the neighbor came over and told Vern's mother they needed to get things figured out or she was gonig to call the sheriff. Grandpa vern turned the tables as a young teenager when his dad was prepping to give him a whipping. He told his dad he wasn't going to take it anymore. His dad said something like, "you sure as hell will" and that's when grandpa fought back. He beat the shit out of his dad, and told him to never come back to the house. After about a week, Vern's mother convinced him to let dad come home.

He put his boxing gloves up after college, and they're still hanging in my grandma's basement. But even though he put up the gloves he took his fighting spirit to almost everything he did, family, religion, business. Emily and I found him fighting for breath the Sunday before he passed away. We were in Clarkston for the weekend and heard that he was in the hospital with some fluid build up on his heart and lungs. We stopped by and found him in good spirits. He greeted us with his typical cowboy-sized grin. His lips were dry, and his voice was parched. They had him on a fluid restriction because of his symptoms. We showed him some pictures from our travels. He smiled and asked a few pictures, but talking was straining on his dry voice. The sun was shining and we had a view of the Clearwater River from his fourth story window. Before we left we prayed with him. He couldn't really hear. He smiled and said, "Bye, bye now."

The next morning they turned off his pacemaker and his heart beat less and less until it stopped beating all-together.


I've been listening to more Johnny Cash lately. Something about Vern is connected to Johnny Cash in my mind. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry about your Grandpa.

    Cash's music has a certain rough honesty to it. I really like the song you linked to.