I remember the last time I saw Grandpa Upton alive like it was yesterday. It was my brother’s birthday, January 19, 2008. We (my mom, my ol’ lady, my brothers and my sister-in-law) decided to visit him and Grandma in Swinney Switch.
It didn’t really feel like my grandparents’ house unless you were greeted by a larger dog when you got out of your car, and then by a smaller dog, or couple of dogs, when you stepped into the house. So, I greeted Highball, Taco and Rita before I got a chance to give Grandma a hug. She was cooking some side dishes to go with the barbecued shrimp my brothers were preparing.
I also remember seeing my mom at the dinner table, her back to us, showing off her new haircut. I didn’t recognize her at first. But I told her it looked nice.
Here’s a nickle’s worth of free advice: You always tell a woman her hair looks nice. It is one of the rare occasions that I condone lying to save someone’s feelings. You lie through your teeth, even if you believe her hair looks like complete shit and she clearly made a huge mistake. Now, I’m not saying all women are insecure about their hair, but you should still err on the side of caution on this one. Besides, who doesn’t like to hear that their hair looks nice? Even if you don’t give a crap about your hair?
Mom’s hair did look nice, truth be told.
We caught up with Grandma on how our lives were. Lacey was about six weeks from giving birth while attending nursing school; I had a steady job and a desire to go back and get my degree, and that was better than nothing. Then my brothers fired up the pit to make some bacon-wrapped shrimp on kebabs.
I was used to seeing Grandpa either outside, tending the miniature horses, or sitting in the living room, watching TV. He wasn’t at either place.
“Where’s Grandpa?” I asked Grandma.
“He’s in the room, resting,” she said.
I went over to see him in their room. The shades were drawn and the blue curtains kept most of the sunlight out.
Grandpa sat in a chair by their bed, cowboy hat perched on his knee. He didn’t look like he was asleep. Sometimes it was hard to tell if his eyes were open. I’m not sure if he squinted so much from working out in the sun when he was younger, or perhaps it was something else that made it difficult to see his eyes.
On that day, he seemed like he had a distant, far away gaze. Like he was contemplating his life. If I live that long, I imagine I’ll spend a lot of time contemplating, perhaps wishing I had spent more time contemplating when I was younger.
We ate a nice lunch. My brothers made fun of me because Taco decided I would be the one who would succumb to his begging for shrimp. Lord baby Jesus as my witness, I didn’t give him a scrap.
We got ready to head back to Corpus in the late afternoon. I think we all enjoyed the peaceful serenity of being in the country. But we had to return to our city lives. We all hugged Grandma, thanking her for the company.
We all took turns hugging Grandpa, too.
I looked him in the eye and said, “I love you, Grandpa.” He said he loved me, too.
Those words are treasure.
That was a perfect day. As perfect as any day can be, I suppose. I’m eternally grateful that I got to tell both of my grandfathers that I loved them before they passed away.
January 24, 2008
I got a call in the middle of the night from my brother, Will. Calls in the middle of the night are never good, are they? Even if it’s not an emergency, or the sad news I was about to hear. Someone calls you that late/early, they’re either drunk or in jail or in some kind of trouble. Or some strange combination of the three.
“H-hello,” I spoke into the phone.
“Hey Les,” came Will’s voice, followed by a long sigh.
This isn’t good, I thought.
“Grandpa died,” he finally said.
I don’t recall much of the rest of the conversation except that Grandma was at Aunt Kathy’s place. I woke Lacey up and told her the news. She told me how terrible it was, and hugged me. That was the first time I cried in a few years.
On to Pearsall
I have taken two trips to Pearsall since we buried Grandpa there. The first trip was in early April, 2016. Besides getting only the backs of my hands sunburned, and dropping my bike because of some gravel, it was a nice ride.
The other trip, which I took last Sunday, was a little more eventful. I’ll elaborate in Part Two.