Aug 4, 2006

Grandpa Sneed

Today is one year anniversay of the day Grandpa Sneed, my dad, died. He was 81 years and 5 months old. He was a veteran of World War II and a career Air Force Master Sergeant. He also had a 20 year career working for the Civil Service. He lived with with us for the last months of his life because he was in the last stages of lung cancer and needed full-time care. He did so grudgingly because he valued his independance. Son Sneed did a loving job of caring for his grandpa to the end. They were special friends. At 5:30 am on 8/4/05, I went into Grandpa's room and found him. He had removed his oxygen mask and was holding his flashlight. Evidently, he knew that the end had come for him. The last thing he told my brother and me was to pray for him. Dad had long professed to be an agnostic. Maybe there are no agnostics at the end. My dad battled his demons for years and years. When I was a boy there were many times when he was absent, when we lacked food and wore old clothes because of his alcoholism. In his younger days he was hard on his family, especially my mom. He could be physically abusive, especially when he was drunk. The important thing though is that he overcame his problems. In his late 50's he gave up drinking and became involved in AA. He would remain involved for the rest of his life. He became a terrific grandfather to his grandchildren, one and all. My dad was generous to a fault. If you brought in his newspaper, he would try to give you "a little something". I would have to remind him that I was a 50 year-old man when he would try to give me a 20 dollar bill for taking him somewhere. Dad would drive you to distraction when you went to his house. He would always offer you a Pepsi, or a snack. He was not deterred by a refusal. He would keep offering stuff, cookies, crackers, candy, nuts, you name it. Say the words "turkey sandwich" to any Sneed and they will instantly know who you are talking about. Sometimes he tried too hard, but he always tried. Dad led a very structured life after he quit drinking. Rountines were very important to him. Some of his habits were the targets of family jokes. As they say, you could set your watch by him. His refrigerator was always neatly stocked with Pepsi, diet and regular, bottles of prune juice, a carton of skim milk, about a zillion Healthy Choice dinners and of course, ice cream. As heis health declined he added nutional drinks to his stockplie. He loved Christmas Eve and we always had a party at Casa Sneed for all the relatives, at least those who were speaking to one another. Dad insisted upon paying for the bash, even though he hadn't adjusted for inflation in a couple of decades. He would always slip the lovely Mrs. Sneed money to buy the food. He usually went out for breakfast with my sister on Saturday morning. He took my nephew (her son) to Best Buy and out to lunch on later on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night was spent at my brother's house, and he came to Casa Sneed on Sunday mornings. He arrived at 9:30 am sharp and always had to rush home at 11:00 am to be there when my sister came to his house. Everything in its time. He brought bagels with him to our house on Sunday's, always one dozen and always from the same store. He was pleased that the emplyees at the bagel store got to know him and would have his order ready before he got there. Someone at the bagel shop got the bright idea to stuff all the strays they couldn't unload otherwise into Dad's bag. He might show up with 5 salt bagels included in the dozen. He was too polite to protest himself, so I went to the shop and told the owner to knock it off. After that his order was not pre-bagged. When he could no longer drive, Son Sneed would take him to the bagel place to get them. He kept an index card in his pocket with a list of the errands he needed to run. When I was going through his desk after he died, I found a lifetime supply of index cards. Dad wrote everything on the calendar. He used the same calendar model, bought at the same place, year after year. Each new year he took the old calendar and transferred the birthdates and anniversaries to the new one and added the spent calendar to his archive of old ones. My brother and I found a tall stack of calendars documenting his daily rountine for a decade when we cleaned out his house. He always asked the kids and grandkids the same questions. Daughter Sneed would cring when he asked about her business, not because he inquired, but because he always asked. Oldest son Sneed has a doctorate in Pharmacy and Dad always greeted him by saying, "What's up doc?" Our nephew got a degree in film-making and Grandpa always talked about that. He always included the phrase, "That boy is as big as a moose", in every conversation about nephew Sneed. Nephew Sneed is 6'5" tall. My Dad was so proud of his children and grandchildren, even those of us who weren't always deserving. I think it made him feel like he had made a difference in the world. Dad was sort of a hypocondriac. He loved an excuse to go to the doctor. He had standing appointements with several. In October of 2004 he went to his primary care doctor because of pain in his shoulder. He was on a campaign to convince the doctor that he needed joint replacement surgery. A CAT scan revealed a tumor in his lung, which proved to be non-small cell lung cancer. The doctor's told him he wasn't a good surgery candidate and that he might have 5 years left with radiation and chemotherapy. In February of 2005 he got very sick and was hospitalized for a week or so. My bother and I had to break the news to him that we were confiscating his car. He was blind as a bat and drove at about 20 mph. The man was a menace. After much harranguing we finally got him to give up his license. Maybe this hastened his decline, you never know. What we do know is that continuing to let him drive might have hastened some innocent citizen's decline. Son Sneed took him to his appointments and to the store, but he was not happy about losing his wheels. He endured two rounds of radiation and many chemotherapy sessions. He slowly got weaker, until in late July he reached crisis stage. He spent the last two weeks in the hospital. On August 3rd he was put into hospice care at our home. They brought him home in an ambulance. He spent his last night with his family. We sat in the living room, he ate ice cream, which his nephew fed him. He thanked us for the care we gave him and then we put him to bed for the last time. Per his instructions there was no funeral. We called a friend of his and his brother to let them know. I think the lesson my dad taught us all is that even if you have screwed up and behaved badly, there is an opportunity to do better. Even though it has been a year since he died and two since he lived alone in his own home, I sometimes, just for an instant, think I should call and check on him or see if he watched the game. Then I remember that he is gone. Merle. P.S. Who gave him those suspenders? Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong and sometimes just full of it. Tag:

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