My grandfather, Mr. Thomas Henry Grove of Penfield, New York, passed away this evening.
When I was growing up, I was convinced for some time that he didn’t really like me very much. I learned later that this was not the case, but in retrospect, I was a pretty annoying child, so I really couldn’t have blamed him it it were so. Immediately after the death of my grandmother, I stayed with him for a week after everyone else had gone home, as I had just graduated college in the middle of a recession with a degree in Psychology, and had no real skills that anyone wanted to pay me for. It was during this week that he and I talked for the first time in my life about anything of substance, and it was the first time I ever really got to know him. While the circumstances surrounding my extended visit were sad, I’m thankful that he and I were able to connect on a level beyond an extended relative that you see once or twice a year. I think I learned a lot about him during that week, but the best thing I learned can be summarized in one sentence:
My grandfather was the greatest human alarm clock on the planet.
In order for that to make sense, there are 3 things that you should know about my grandfather:
1) He loved opera. I think he loved all opera, but he really got into the Wagnerian level stuff that you can feel deep in your loins.
2) He was one of the most stubborn men I ever met. An example of this was the time they put in a stop sign down the street from his house. I was driving with him one day, and as we were going 60 through a residential area (not an uncommon occurrence) he blasted through the intersection. I told him, “Grandpa, I think you missed a stop sign there,” and his response was, “Oh yeah. The damn lawyers put that up there, but I don’t like it.”
3) He was hard of hearing, but refused to wear a hearing aid, due to the aforementioned stubbornness.
Like most people, my grandfather woke up earlier than I do every morning. In his case, it might have actually been 4 or 5 hours earlier. Every morning he would wake up, put on his jumpsuit, eat his breakfast fruit, and do his exercises. And, on that particular week at least, he would play his opera through his sound system in a room that just happened to be directly under the room where I was sleeping. The volume he played his opera was what he would consider, “comfortably loud.” The rest of the world actually measured it on the Richter scale. I got off easy the first couple days… I think he might have played Rossini just to ease me into it. Under the right circumstances, waking up to the William Tell Overture can actually be pleasant. The 3rd day though was the day he decided to break out Die Walkure. Specifically, Act III of Die Walkure. Suffice it to say, if you have never been blasted from a deep sleep by the sound of Ride of the Valkyries played at 250 decibels, then you have not yet truly lived. I still remember stumbling down the steps with my heart pounding, and walking into the kitchen to see Grandpa cutting his fruit. He then looked up and said, “How’d you sleep?” He knew exactly what he’d done, and he knew I knew as well, but he never even cracked a smile. In the event that I ever wake up before someone, I hope to one day administer the same style of wake up call that he did.
I’m thankful for the 33 years I got to know my grandfather, and although I’ll miss him, I know that he’s at peace and back together with my grandmother. Even in Heaven, I’m sure they’ve had at least one argument by now. Until we meet again Grandpa, may your cameras always be loaded with Kodak film, may your Porsches run without mechanical failure, and may everyone in Heaven know exactly what opera you’re listening to at all times.
Rest in peace.