And the lighthouse goes out…
I wanted to post something cheerful for Susie's blog-hop, especially since I'm trying to attract people to my Samhuinn Kindle Countdown (28-31 October, Barefoot on the Couch only); but sometimes life decides that cheerfulness is overrated.
Like when your last (biological) grandparent passes on and you weren't really expecting it.
So I'm dedicating this to my grandparents—all my grandparents—and I'll just write what comes.
Arthur Joseph Martin ~ 18 February 1918 – 24 May 1998
What do you say about a gentleman you never really knew? Despite being precocious, I still feel like I didn't start having "real" conversations1 until eleven or twelve—at which point Pop-Pop was already in the throes of vascular dementia.
I know he read Dean Koontz (he always kept his book of the moment behind his spot on the couch in the trailer where my grandparents summered), and I know Dean is more thriller-ish than Stephen King, but I always tell people that I'm sure he would've loved discussing Stephen's books with me—or any books at all. Nevermind that I haven't read anything other than "Uncle Stevie's" tweets for a long time. Gasp!
That is, if I could've engaged him in conversation at all—Pop-Pop was a notoriously quiet person.
Art passed in Lakeland, Florida due to complications from a stroke. He was 80.
1Conversations of a substantial nature that an adult wouldn't mind listening to and/or participating in. I suppose having an idea of when I crossed that line tells you exactly how precocious I was!
Anita Theresa Rademacher ~ 23 February 1920 – 17 April 2004
Of course, just because you're eighteen doesn't mean you can have a conversation any easier.
For some reason, Grandma Martin and I never really warmed up to each other. Maybe she thought I was too much like my mom. I know I never felt she was very warm and fuzzy, which didn't help anything. But maybe she was just one of those people who likes little kids and doesn't want anything to do with them once they can think for themselves. (That would explain why she would dandle me on her knee and sing me a German song when I was a little, but seemed to grow cooler as I got older.)
I don't know why I was hoping she'd live long enough to see me graduate high school…wishing for one last shot at approval, maybe? Except when you're dying, you're probably not thinking of your youngest granddaughter finishing grade school, so I'm not sure it matters.
Despite not being very close, Grandma did personally hand me my inheritance before she went into hospice: a small pewter frog that I'd played with when I was little. (She loved gardening, wrens, hummingbirds, angels and frogs.) You bet your sweet syrup I still have it fourteen years later! It's my freaking frog and I don't plan on parting with it any time soon!
Anita passed from complications due to what was suspected to be pancreatic cancer.
Though far from the final visitor to her hospice room, I was the last one she spoke to.
She was 84.
Pat & Cleo's 50th Anniversary Hoedown, Summer 2004
From front right: Pat Prescott , Cleo Prescott , Mari Martin , Dayanara Ryelle , Mike Prescott 
Yes, my grandma was two months pregnant when she walked down the aisle!
Cleo Frederick Prescott ~ 20 November 1925 – 23 January 2011
Conversely, how do you mash 25-32 years of memories into one little blog space?
Maybe I should start with this one. I'm going to guess I was pretty young, given my size. Probably not asleep, but simply enjoying the Lake Michigan breeze as we sailed. Location? One of the decks of SS Badger, also known as the Lake Michigan Carferry. (Still running on coal as I write this, after getting an exemption from the EPA!)
Teaching me how to ride a bike. Supervising me as I drove back and forth to my (unwilling) position with him and Grandma as an assistant in their ceramic shop. Building campfires for supper and general relaxing during each camping trip. Big Christmas breakfasts (and regular ones that were none too small!) in which he tried to make me a pancake man. Singing me folk songs like "I Went to the Animal Fair".
Like Pop-Pop, Grandpa suffered from vascular alzheimer's, so his personality died in 2009, even as his body held on for another two years. But that didn't make it any easier to bear, because I loved him so much.
I couldn't tell this story at his memorial service because I knew I'd be too wrecked. But my mom was able to hold herself together long enough to tell it—which I appreciated, as it was Grandpa's favorite. (He loved it so much that he kept repeating it even in the throes of dementia!)
Like many grandpas, mine went off to serve in World War II, ending up in Japan hauling water (for the Air Force, I believe). He happened to be taking a break one day when he heard an officer say, "Man, what I wouldn't give for a pot of potato soup!"
"I can make potato soup, Sir!" Grandpa said bravely. (I think he was brave, anyway…I couldn't imagine getting up the courage to do that!)
Well, that must have been one badass pot of soup, because Cleo Prescott spent the rest of the war as a mess sergeant in the Army. He may have never seen the front lines; but if you ask me, feeding dozens of hungry troops is a battle all its own.
As is often the case with vascular alzheimer's, Cleo succumbed to multiple successive strokes on January 23, 2011. He was 85.
Patricia Ann Lynd ~ 24 February 1933 – 24 September 2018
My grandmother was none too gentle in my younger years, having retained some of the famous "redhead temper" into her fifties and partway into her sixties. Still, if asked to choose a favorite grandma back then, she would've won.
As we got older, we became better friends, and I learned that I could confide in her without the judgement and criticism I'd often received from my mother.1 She returned the favor, admitting that she'd been heartbroken and quite depressed for the first few years after my grandpa's death, but unwilling to tell my mother and uncle for fear they wouldn't sympathize and completely dismiss her grief.
Unfortunately, the last few months were rough. She'd finally agreed to go off steroids after seven years, but sacrificed much of the movement in her hands and other extremities in the process. Her doctors had also cut back on her Percocet (due to the opioid epidemic, she said), leaving her in a great deal of pain. Worse, a few weeks ago, they found fluid around her heart—a sure sign that she was already struggling with the end.
Grandma loved her ceramics and had more artistic certifications than I've ever seen in any field. She was a big fan of camping (and hiking while she was still able) and enjoyed going to Algonac to see the ships moving cargo up and down the Saint Clair River. Most of all, she loved lighthouses—collecting them, painting them and reading about them as much as she could.
Pat died Monday, presumably from complications of arterial fibrillation and general heart failure. She was 85.
1 I still wouldn't be talking to her if it wasn't for my grandmother's death, as conversation frequently drifted to claims that my grandmother "wasn't all there" and had "problems with the truth". I can't speak for the latter, but the former is bullshit—nobody who is losing their mind should be able to converse at length about playing basketball and clarinet as my grandmother did in the last six months! Eighty-five and she could still tell me who played what position and the names of the girls that were first and second chair to her third.
My beloved lighthouse has gone out…