March 2021
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Goodbye, Grandpa.

Portrait as a young man

My grandfather, Albert F. Wild, passed away Friday at the not-so-tender age of 95. He lived a long and amazing life, was happily married to my grandmother for 66 years and was lucid and smart almost up until the end. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

And yet it somehow doesn’t make this any easier.

My Grandfather had been afflicted with various health problems for as long as I can remember. We’ve been through several medical crises, including cancer and congestive heart failure. Just a couple of months ago, they switched his pacemaker off. And, let’s not forget, he was 95. It didn’t take a genius to see that this was coming. And yet? When I got the news on Saturday, I was completely unprepared for how hard this hit me.

In some ways, I think that never knowing wether or not the current health scare will be the last one makes it harder. My Grandfather beat (almost) every single ailment that life threw at him. At some point, it started to feel like he was going to beat them all. No matter how many times you tell yourself that nobody lives forever, some small part of you starts to believe that it’s impossible to take this man down.

My conversation on the phone with my Grandmother on Saturday was one of the most emotionally crushing experiences of my life. What do you say to someone who has just lost their husband and partner of 66 years? All I could do was say that I was sorry and cry with her. There were a lot of tears this weekend and there are sure to be a lot of tears to come.

I find myself torn up about the fact that I never got to say goodbye. I feel terrible that I never got the chance to squeeze his hand and tell him that I loved him. But I feel good about the fact that I gave him a hug and an “I love you” at my sister Allison’s wedding in September. And there’s a small part of me that is grateful that I never saw him during his final illness. Everyone says that he wasn’t himself. I would much rather picture him the way he was at the wedding in September. Happy, proud, totally with it. I know that it’s not my fault that we didn’t get to say goodbye – Kristian and I were supposed to drive down on Saturday. We missed him by less than a day. We were willing to make the effort, it just wasn’t in the cards. So, I will try to let this go. And I will concentrate on being grateful for the fact that I don’t doubt for a moment that he knew just how much I loved him.

My Grandfather holding me as a newborn.

My grandfather was a smart man. An electrical engineer, he went to Tufts University (my current employer, something he was really excited about) on a bell ringing scholarship. A wealthy benefactor had endowed Tufts with a scholarship for a student to receive full tuition in exchange for ringing the chapel bells at set times. None of the music students could stand to play the bells (you had to play with the timing slightly off in order for them to sound good below which drove the more serious musicians crazy), so my grandfather and a fellow engineer happily split the scholarship. Apparently, he was often chided by his professors for sneaking popular music into the song selections. Which just goes to show you that I come by my sense of mischief quite honestly.

My Grandfather met my Grandmother at a train station in Bridgeport, CT. She was soliciting donations for the Red Cross and he was not about to give her a donation of any sort. My Grandmother, being the definition of persistence, approached him several times. Eventually, he asked her out. We like to joke in our family that our Grandparents got together because he was such a cheapskate. But, I’d like to think that it was just meant to be. They had a beautiful marriage. My grandfather never missed an opportunity to let us all know how much he loved my Grandmother. Sometimes in ways that we, his Grandchildren, would prefer not to know.

My Grandfather (with a lot of help from my Grandmother) produced 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren (and counting!). Watching him hold my nephew and then, a few years later, my niece was a special moment. He was so proud of all of his offspring and so happy to get to meet his great-grandchildren.

When we were little, my Grandfather would cook us blueberry pancakes with fresh blueberries, round and juicy. I thought that he was the best pancake chef in the world. He took me to my very first opera, La Boheme (which I thought was called Love, OM – something my family has never let me live down). My Grandmother dropped us off 4 hours early, because my Grandparents thought that, if you weren’t at least 2 hours early for an event, you were late. None of the cast members had arrived yet. I teased my Grandparents mercilessly about it, but I secretly enjoyed hanging out in the sunshine.

My Grandparents at their wedding

My Grandfather loved sailing and canals. He once took my sister Allison to a canal society meeting. She didn’t care for the meeting itself all that much, but greatly enjoyed the lemon squares that they put out for refreshments. For the rest of his life, my Grandfather would send my sister his copies of the canal society newsletter – helpfully annotated by him for her edification. She probably would have appreciated him mailing her some more lemon square instead, but I think she really liked getting his little notes. My Grandparents sailed whenever and wherever they could. Anytime they went on vacation, they used it as an excuse to go sailing. When they both retired, they bought a boat and spent some time sailing everywhere they could on it. And they passed their knowledge on to us grandkids – taking us out in their Sunfish sailboat and paying for us to spend a week at sailing camp.

At his 95th birthday party this year, we all took turns getting up and sharing our “reminiscences” (one of his favorite words) about him. Then, we let him get up and talk about whatever he wanted for as long as he wanted. I’m pretty sure that was the best birthday gift ever. And we all loved every moment of it. The man could tell a story. And we were all so happy and proud that this 95-year-old man could tell a story that was not only interesting, but was logical and cohesive. It would have been a feat for someone at 85 or 90. At 95, it was simply amazing.

Grandpa was a master story teller. Our family motto is “Leave a Story Better Than You Found It” and we got that quality from him. We liked to tease him about Pecan Sandies – someone once mentioned Pecan Sandies and he went off on a long narrative. When asked what his story had to do with Pecan Sandies, he said something about one of the characters in the story eating them. It was pretty clear that he just wanted an excuse to spin his yarn. We’re all like that, but he was the original. I can never eat a Pecan Sandy without thinking about him. I have a sneaking suspicion that Pecan Sandies are going to leave me feeling emotional for a good long while. And I will have great difficulty explaining why cookies could make me so sad.

No matter when or how it happens, losing someone that you love is always hard. This is one of my first major losses, which is something that I’m trying very hard to be grateful for. Pretty much all of my important people are still here with me. Hell, my great-grandmother lived until I was in my 20’s. It’s hard to lose my Grandfather, but it’s pretty amazing that I had him in my life as long as I did. He was a great man and the world is definitely a better place for him being in it. If you like your butter dish soft but not too soft, you have him to thank. While working for GE, he invented the separate butter compartment in the household refrigerator (His version had an actual heating element in it!). I think that the hardest part of this is seeing how it’s affecting my Grandmother. I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s going through right now.

Kristian has been my rock throughout all of this. From the moment I walked into our bedroom crying (he leapt across the room so fast to hug me I suspect he had a jet-pack hidden somewhere) he has made it his mission to take care of me. He cleaned the whole kitchen and dining room on Saturday (even putting away clutter, which he normally just moves around to vacuum), cooked me a delicious dinner, bought me cupcakes and has just generally done all of the hand-holding and hugging that I’ve needed. I told him last night that we need to stay married for at least 66 years. Which means that he needs to live until at least a 100. I’m holding him to it.

My friends have been fantastic as well. From Nancy coming over to hang out (and giving me the cutest pair of earrings ever!) to Beans calling me up to make sure that I’m ok, they’ve been fantastic. Amidst the sadness and grieving, its been incredible to see just how many fantastic people I have in my life. I really am lucky.

Goodbye, Grandpa. We’re all going to miss you terribly.

21 comments to Goodbye, Grandpa.

  • Oh I’m so sorry Hope for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to him though, he sounds like an incredible man. It’s so hard to lose someone close to you, that’s for sure. It still saddens me to think about my Grandma who passed just around this time three years ago. I, like you, was unable to say a proper goodbye to her because of school and sometimes I wonder if it was worth finishing that project and passing that class instead of being able to see my grandma one last time. Although, like you, I’m also grateful I saw her when she was well, when she was herself and not when she was just a shell of herself. She would have wanted it that way.

    I’m so sorry about your grandpa. Sending you lots of love and hugs. Keep his memories close!

  • Hans

    Sorry about your loss.

  • Sorry about your loss, it sounds as though he lived a long and fulfilling life! Big hugs

  • Oh, Hope, my heart goes out to all of you. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandfather. You’ve made me feel and appreciate this special man.

    Hope, you might not have seen him at the very end, but you DID get to hug him and tell him you loved him. It doesn’t matter as much when we say the words, but that we say them at all.

    Peace, comfort and sympathy to your family.

  • Jane

    Hi Hope. Thanks for sharing some great stories. I remember your grandpa. He was the bee’s knees.

  • Mel

    I’m so sorry Hope.

  • Aunti Deb

    this is a perfect tribute Hope. You write beautifully and with such great affection. He was so very proud of your many accomplishments…love ya…dw

  • My heart goes out to you right now. Your grandpa sounded like an amazing man; one that passed down a lot of love and gifts to his family. And you seem to have inherited his gift of telling a story… what a beautifully told tribute to him.

  • B

    I am sorry to hear of your loss and I don’t think losing someone is ever easy – no matter what. Grieving is a process all your own, so take your time. What a tremendous life he had though! You did an amazing job depicting his life here. And a 66-year marriage is a beautiful thing! My prayers go to your grandmother, you and your whole family during this time.

  • Hope,
    That was a wonderful tribute to your Grandfather.
    I am so sorry for your loss.

    Sending you much strength and love. xx

    p.s: I love my butter the right shade of soft! 🙂 <3

  • Thanks, Ashalah, it means a lot to me. 🙂

    With the benefit of time, I think I’m ok with not having seen him that last time. Chances are, he wouldn’t have known I was even there. I’ve been post-processing some photos and there are some really good ones of him. I’m glad that those happy moments are my lasting memory of him.

  • He was the bee’s knees. Most definitely! Thank you.

  • Thanks, Mary. You are so very wise.

  • Love you too, Auntie Deb!

  • Thank you! At the very least, I’ve inherited his ability to go on an on and on and on. 😉

  • Thank you so much. My Grandmother seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered. She’s a strong lady.

  • My Grandpa knew what he was doing! 😉

  • Suzanne Landis Sadler

    This is a beautiful tribute to your Grandfather. My Aunt Mary Landis (deceased) went to Smith College and corresponded with your grandfather from1936-1941. He wrote letters that show how creative, talented, and clever he was. From his letters I knew that soon after Tufts he went to work for GE in Erie, PA. I was so glad to learn (from you) about his invention while working there. In one of his last letters to Mary, he stated that he was going to buy a boat….
    I hope that your Grandmother is still alive and doing well.
    I got yo your blog by viewing you mother’s blog looking for Internet info on Albert F. Wild.
    My best to you,
    Suzanne Landis Sadler
    Danville, VA (age 68)
    You inherited your Grandfather’s talent!

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