I just returned from Miami, where we attended the funeral of my grandfather, who passed away on March 17. Because my grandmother, his first wife, died before I was born, he is the first grandparent that I've had to bury.
In the past 20 years, Pop-Pop had developed emphysema, lost one kidney and had three heart attacks. But he continued a reasonably active lifestyle for a 79-year-old, and had been working for a cruise line greeting passengers. In the middle of February he became very ill. Heart failure followed by bronchitis and pneumonia and a host of other ailments kept him in a hospital for over a month, and required him to be on a respirator for much of that time. Mom and her brother flew in on the weekends to stay with him. Although he could barely talk and, as one doctor put it, "every organ in his body had been insulted," he still managed to give 'em hell at the hospital. Not content with the staff's assertion that a rather uncomfortable feeding tube couldn't be removed in favor of something less intrusive, Pop-Pop ripped out all 18 inches of the tube and laid it on his pillow while everyone else was distracted by the evening news. That won him a couple of days of comfort courtesy of a much sought-after IV tube, but he suffered another setback. Finally, he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. The day after he realized that the best-case scenario was to live in a nursing home in a wheelchair, he showed himself out the door, so to speak, and died in his sleep.
I spoke at his funeral, along with most of his other grandchildren. I don't have anything more original to add here than what I said there. He was the kind of guy who called waitresses "hun" and "doll" and drove around in a black and white Cadillac and was fond of dirty jokes. A trip to the dogtrack was as appropriate an outing for the grandkids as bike rides on the Boardwalk. He was a cool cat who at the end knew he was too hip for the room, and left before he had to face any further indignity.