Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Tribute

My Grandfather

After a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, I received word yesterday that my grandfather has passed.  I'm so thankful for the memories I have and to share a bit with you.

My grandfather's name is Robert Cunningham.  He was a career Air Force officer.  He worked with radios.  He was stationed in Germany for a year, and he took his whole family with him (he and my grandmother had 4 kids).  It is a favorite memory of my mom's.  He once built an organ for my grandmother completely by just ordering parts.

My grandfather was from Oregon and my grandmother from Boston.  They met in Florida.  My grandfather was stationed at a base in Tampa.  My grandmother was on vacation after graduating from nursing school.  Their courtship was based mostly on correspondence (mail).  They were engaged after 2 months and married 4 months after meeting.  The only hitch was he was Catholic and my grandmother was Baptist.  According to my grandmother's account, he changed his religion so that he could be with her.  My grandmother wrote in a memoir for us grandkids,  
"After all these 53 years together, as of this date 3/12/02, I could have hunted the world over and never found anyone more suited than my Bob.  I still love him dearly and he is my best friend.  What a catch I made!"

{Papaw holding me just a few days after I was born, December 1976}

{My sister, Papaw holding me, and my grandmother--"Grannyham"}

{Helping me with the cat...I have always *loved* cats.}

My earliest memories of my grandfather include his Apple Computer.  I had the opportunity to learn just a smidgin of BASIC programming (remember Q-BASIC?) when a computer bus came to our school for a week while I was in elementary school.  I had a magazine for kids that would include a "program" that you could type in on the computer in BASIC for a cute little game or something.  I imagine I hounded my grandfather relentlessly to let me "play" on his computer.  I probably annoyed him as much as my kids annoy me now ("Can I play on your iPod, Mom?").

My grandfather built a beautiful A-frame style house in Ewing, VA, where they lived for most of my childhood.  He also built at least 2 clinics in the area.  My grandmother worked as a nurse through much of my younger childhood.

My grandmother and grandfather only ate 2 meals per day.  They were very health-conscious and watched their cholesterol regularly.  My grandmother suffered from osteoporosis.  My grandfather always had a glass of wine with his dinner.  I remember my grandfather as almost always calm and composed, very friendly but also reserved.  If I could turn back time, I would ask him more questions about his life.

I occasionally got to go to my grandparents' house for the weekend.  It seemed like I was there once a month at least.  "Treats" were popcorn and milkshake at bedtime, and possibly "going to town" (Middlesboro, KY) on Saturday...where I might even get to eat out (my favorites were Pizza Hut and Long John Silver's).

{My last face-to-face visit with my grandparents, in March 2000:  Me with Eden, "Grannyham", Micah, and Papaw}

My last memories of contact with my grandfather were by email.  He wrote to me of concern that his blood pressure medications were causing short-term memory loss.  :(  It was the earlier stages of Alzheimer's.  I so wanted to believe along with him that it was only the medication, and that switching meds would reverse the effects.  His emails slowed, and within a few months stopped altogether.  I didn't go back to see them after March 2000.  At that time they were living in Oklahoma and later moved to Texas.  I wanted to go, but my grandmother begged us to keep happy memories of how they used to be.  :'(  My grandmother died in 2007, and my grandfather seemed to be lost after that.  These last couple years must have been agonizing watching him deteriorate.  My aunt has been caring for him, and he has been in a long-term care facility.  I am so glad the battle is over and he can rest.  I pray for comfort for my mom, her sister, and her brother.

My Uncle James

I also lost my uncle.  He died the day after Obadiah was born, on April 6th.  He was only 56 years old.  He had a few health problems that left him frail in recent years.  A terrible car accident claimed most of his health and vitality, and he has spent the past couple years in a nursing home.

My uncle was the "baby" of the family.  He had a house right next to my grandparents for most of my young life.  :)  I enjoyed going to his house by a little path they made through the woods.

{My uncle holding me...I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the story behind this print is that he was learning to develop his own photos, and this is a print he had done...the quality is not very good and is covered with fingerprints.  ::grin::}

{And again, I could be wrong, but I think he was also fairly proud of his Toro lawn tractor...which he has me showing off.  This is one of 3 similar pictures I have with us and the lawn tractor...lol.}

{The dog's name was Duchess.  Also my older sister Carrie.  I am about 3.5 years old here...February 1980.  Please note that this does not make me currently older than 29.}

Uncle James went to school to be a minister.  One of my best memories of my uncle is when he got married.  It was a HUGE deal!  I got to stay with my grandparents for nearly a whole week, and all of my cousins were there, too.  It was so much fun.  Going to the wedding was so much fun, too.  I was at that stage of life where I dreamed about big weddings and princesses and all things girly.  I remember being excited for he and his wife to have children...but that thought was hushed by adults around me.  They informed me that they may not have children because they were older.  They ended up having two...a beautiful girl and later a handsome boy with crazy curly hair.  :)  

I know that the loss of her brother stings my mom's heart dearly.  But I am so glad his body is whole and healed at last. 

1 comment:

  1. Your grandmother's words gave me goosebumps and brought tears to the surface.

    It sounds like they were, for you, what my parents are for my kids. Your grandpa and my dad even have the same name! :)

    The picture of you with your uncle and his Toro reminds me of the view at my parents cabin...