We knew it was coming, and many of us felt like we lost him years ago, when his Alzheimer's progressed to the point where he could no longer interact. Yet there's still something so sad about losing the patriarch of a large family. From his 10 children came 30 grandchildren, and so far, over 20 great-grandchildren. He and my Granny are greatly missed.
Even having grown up living primarily in a different city from them, and being one of so many, I still have so many fond memories of them. Granddaddy was famous for calling out "shut the door!" the second it had been opened, and without even looking to see who it was. I suppose it becomes force of habit when you have so many kids coming and going. He also liked to talk about the color "burple", and whenever we'd lament that our guacamole had turned brown, he'd assure us that it still tasted green.
Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It's so hard to look upon a loved-one's body, still functioning just fine, and know that their mind is not the mind of the person you knew. The worst is that no one can know for sure what their mental capabilities are, especially once they're no longer able to speak.
I recall taking Emma to meet him when she was a baby, and being told that he wouldn't understand who I was, or what I was trying to tell him. I held her up to him anyway, told him that I loved him, and hugged on him. He couldn't make a sound, but he looked at me, shaking ever so slightly. Our eyes met, and his were moist. Just one of the body's involuntary actions? Perhaps. But I've always wondered if we connected that day. If he understood more than everyone thought he did, but was just trapped inside himself, unable to convey his heart.
He was a strong, quiet man with a great smile, who worked very hard to provide for his children and his childrens' children. A faithful, loving husband for over 50 years, a great father, a kind grandfather. Steady, dependable, and highly-respected. And never one to pass up the chance to head down to the lake to fish.
His heart may have beat its last today, but his memory, and our love for him, will never die.