November 23. It’s the date written on Granddaddy’s head stone. i probably write this every year in my journal, but it felt like November 22, Saturday night when he died. The clock read 12:05. it was a plain round, black outlined, large numbered clock. 12:05 when he breathed for the last time. A nurse, she was dark skinned and sweet. i think she had tight curls. She said “sorry for your loss”.
It was polite. She acknowledged the death though it was 32 minutes later when a dr- I think she was a petite blond, maybe- who listened to the chest with no heartbeat and pronounced him dead. This was farther into the morning of the 23rd, Sunday morning, 12:37. I’m sorry for your loss. How can anyone truly feel sorry for a loss they understand nothing about. I’m sorry you lost your beloved Grandfather who has been your best friend and confidante for years, for always.
The granddaddy you spent every major and minor holiday with, who was there for every little milestone of your life. The granddaddy you’ve cried with, laughed with, made cim-in-on bread with, watched Annie over and over again in the basement eating bonbons with.
The granddaddy who would sneak in the basement door, opening a crack and using his fingers would slide up the chain lock that was on sideways, and would come in smelling like the night air, sweat, and uniform. Your granddaddy you visited the police station with, where you played with the black light doors. The granddaddy who spanked you “cuz you love me” as you climbed up the edge of the deck.
The granddaddy who could make anyone laugh, and who’d ask waiters if the drank or did drugs. The granddaddy who lifted his leg to fart, took a picture of a terd, and grabbed Granny’s butt as she bent over to the dishwasher.
The granddaddy that told you how fast the earth was spinning and other “deep things.” Your granddaddy who came to a parent meeting with Mr Lashley when you lost your lab book and were having a tough time. the granddaddy who chastised the girl your dad was seeing. The granddaddy who picked you up and drove the rollercoaster road to Sunday School and who taught you to sing about God and how to trust in Him.
I’m sorry for the loss of the granddaddy who let you sleep through your depression and watched Judge Judy with you; the one who helped your depression by (ironically) chronicling all the murder scenes he photographed for ID. The granddaddy mama says brought a dead hand in formaldehyde to the kitchen table. The granddaddy who walked home with you from Harding Mall because he was ticked at Granny for being late though you thought it was just another great adventure. The granddaddy who met Jeremiah and gave you his approval.
The one who almost died…many times…many, many times. In 97 when he had a risky bypass surgery. Again when he busted his nose because his oxygen was low. You patted the blood on his nose as it continued to bleed at the hospital. It hurt him. He hated wearing his oxygen. Again with Tachycardia, and he needed the pacemaker and defibrillator put in. Again when the defibrillator worked then the pacemaker slowed down the tachycardia. Again and again.
The one who met Andy and was hesitant about the little ole Baptist boy, yet came to love him fiercely as his own, who watched him from his one piece jumpsuit back out of the drive way on our first date- jr prom. The one who laughed at showing his suspenders in your wedding pictures and stood downstairs at the reception and said “d’ya get stuck on the elevator?”
The granddaddy who hated bad, and embraced the beautiful and the sincere. The granddaddy who was scared to die. The granddaddy who learned how to use the internet to keep up with you in college. The one you talked to from a perch in a college building watching it snow beautifully as he told me of the awful issues in Nashville because the storm rolled in too quickly. The granddaddy who was at high-school and college graduation. The granddaddy who helped sign your posters to hang in your second grade classroom, before you crashed. The one you always turned to when you crashed. The granddaddy you cuddled in bed with to watch Green Acres and Doby Gillas on Nick at Night, the one who woke you up with a warm wash cloth on your face.
The granddaddy who loved Micah deeply. The granddaddy who was proud to receive Anna, the one you sat with when you had to take Anna to visit her birth mom in jail. The granddaddy who debated theological issues and agreed, you’re pretty sure, eventually that being saved isn’t through physical baptism, and trusted that his God would not abandon him for sins Jesus had foreknown and died for.
I’m sorry for the loss of your granddaddy who called you a couple of weeks before scared of the surgery to have his pacemaker batteries replaced. The one you reassured… “I’ll be there when you wake up or you’ll be with Jesus. It’s a win- win.” You were sure this wouldn’t be the end- a battery change after all he’d been through.
The granddaddy who woke up and ate Chicken Selects with you while he had a weight put on the incision to help keep the stitches closed- it was a minor complication. The one who bumped his head falling the next morning.
Who you loved and sat with and talked to and fussed at and fussed with. The granddaddy who loved you more than anything. The granddaddy who understood and asked to turn off the defibrillator. The Granddaddy you sat with all day, you and him, although he was sleep and groggy. The granddaddy people from everywhere loved and came to visit.
The Granddaddy who belongs to you, the Granddaddy you belonged to.
THe Granddaddy who waited until you got there and spoke in his ear, “it’s ok, it’s ok to go home, I love you.” the Granddaddy I feared dying. The granddaddy whose death was as awful to me, as terrible, as sickening, as heart wrenching as painful as I always feared it would be. The granddaddy who was buried the day before thanksgiving and given a tombstone that says Willie Ray Arnold October 18, 1933- November 23, 2008.
My Granddaddy. “I’m sorry for your loss.”