Where is Eddie?
By J. Michael

My grandparents had aged well, staying physically and mentally active through their 80's. Quick witted with a unique sense of humor and a great love for nature, they lived life to the fullest. Often taking trips in their younger years with family and friends, they still looked forward to "getting out" as they grew older. It wasn't until they reached their 90's that they began to really decline, as we all do at some point.

Grandma and Grandpa were the old fashioned type, born in the early 1900's, both came from moderate sized families with little money. This was pretty typical in those days, many young men at the age of 14 or younger would drop out of school to help support the family. They met in their teens, and began dating soon after. Together they suffered the droughts, sandstorms and financial distress of the Great Depression. As a result, grandpa became even more financially prude, therefore delaying his marriage to grandma until they were in their late 20's.

They did eventually marry, promising each other to remain together, in sickness and health, good times and bad, forever. Back then, divorce was extremely rare, and frankly wasn't even considered as an option in the minds of my grandparents. They knew that while they started out infatuated with each other, they grew to love one another. They realized this love was a choice, a decision that they made, not just an emotion that they felt.

Only able to conceive one child, they were devastated when at the age of 5, their only son was stricken with Polio - a disease that almost took his life. Many frightful nights ensued, but their boy would recover. Retaining the life-long side effects of Polio, he grew into an otherwise healthy young man. During this time, grandma and grandpa were drawn closer to each other, having a greater respect for life and taking time to enjoy it.

Dad grew up and started a family of his own, settling only a few minutes away from my grandparents as they began living their retirement years. Family trips now began to include us grandchildren, whether it was a drive down to the beach for the day, or a two-week long trip across the country.

Throughout all these years, grandma and grandpa remained faithful to each other. Grandpa was such a gentleman, always holding open the doors, escorting her in his arms, or walking right behind her on the narrow walk-way with his hand gently and thoughtfully placed on her back or shoulder. It was actually a familiar scene, something that I witnessed as a child growing up and which was frequently captured in photo's taken of them long before I was born. I vividly recall the image of grandpa walking closely behind grandma, his hand on her shoulder, with her hand reaching up holding on to his.

Naturally as a young child, I never understood the real significance of such a scene. The new generations of our society had begun to engrain us with the idea of "female equality". I'm not saying that females aren't equal, but many of my peers, and even more so, the generations under me would be taught that woman can and should open doors for themselves. But I felt differently. Not that a woman can't open her own door, she just shouldn't have to. It's simply a matter of respect. I learned a lot about respect from my grandparents, not just from what they said, but more so, from what they showed me. The natural acts of my grandpa toward grandma were sincere and in a loving manner. It was a choice he made. He chose to love, and he chose to respect her.

As my grandparents got older, they had a little more difficulty walking and getting around, yet every time I would pick them up for an afternoon out, there would be grandpa, holding the door for grandma and walking right behind her with his hand on her shoulder.

With their ageing body, eventually came an aging mind. Grandma would begin asking me as I walked with her to the car, "Where's Eddie?"

"Grandpa is right behind you!" was my standard reply. I'd then open the car door for her, as she looked up at me, she would simply smile as she reached up over her shoulder to place her hand over top his. Grandpa would wait for her to get seated in the front seat, before he'd open the back door and sit down himself. I would close his door for him and walk around to take the drivers seat.

I would begin backing out of the driveway in silence when grandma would look over at me - "Where's Eddie?" she'd ask again.

"He's right behind you grandma!" I would again reply.

She would then look forward through the windshield, smiling as always and simply say "good"!

This became routine the last few years of their life. Eventually grandpa had a tough time walking himself, and I instinctively took over his role. I'd help grandma to the front seat of the car, then return to help grandpa to his seat right behind her. I'd take the drivers seat and the routine question and answer would leave her smiling and content.

Time went on, and grandma died last year. She was always happy and content, and despite a little confusion and forgetfulness, she was mentally "with it" through the end. She died peacefully, and for that we are thankful.

Grandpa's last few weeks weren't quite as tranquil. While he never lost any mental capacity at all, he became very weak and tired in the days and weeks before grandma's death. He required oxygen but was able to remain under the care of the assisted living home where he and grandma resided for their last couple of years.

Through life, they chose to be together, they chose to love each other, a love deeper than romance. They made that decision and they stuck with it. If he couldn't be next to her, grandpa remained behind her at all times.

Though exhausted and wore out, he made it to his bride's funeral. 75+ years they were together, and just as they promised, it wasn't until death that they would part. Yet even then, it wasn't for very long. One week after grandma passed away, grandpa also died.

I imagine when grandma died, she reached the gate of heaven and asked her Lord and Savoir, "Where's Eddie?"

"He's right behind you grandma!"

- In loving memory -

See also: Grandma Died Today - A tribute to grandma and grandpa

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