Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Grave for Two

My grandpa was an odd man. A good man, but odd. Soon, it will be a year since he died. I always thought of my grandpa Webb as the "good grandpa", partly because his only competition for the best grandpa title was my other grandpa, who was quite mean and bitter, but mostly because he always gave me rib cage crushing hugs when I was a kid. As my favorite grandpa, I would eagerly look forward to when he and my grandma would make the trek from Sandy to visit us in Seattle, always bringing a few boxes of grandma's homemade chocolates- if you think See's or Godiva's are good chocolates, then I pity you since you never got to taste hers.

My grandma died when I was around ten, and after she was gone my grandpa started his long slide into extreme old age- he finally died at age 95 this year. Whenever I saw him he seemed less interested in what was going on around him, and his mind seemed to be slipping a little. For example, at one of his birthday parties Jenny and I were talking to him when it came out that we both served our missions in South America. He then started to talk to us in Spanish- not great Spanish, but it was passable. This surprised me since I knew he did not serve a mission (he was of mission age during the great depression), and knew he had not lived overseas. He then told us about sailing on a great ocean liner to Mexico, and then on to Spain, where he stayed for a few years while he was young. I wondered why his biography (actually, my great-grandpa's biography, but he had his own chapter in it) had not mentioned it. Later, I talked to one of my 9 uncles about it and he laughed, saying that was his dementia kicking in and that he was only remembering some of his grandkids' experiences on their missions as if they were his own. That answer satisfied me, but I still wondered where he learned his Spanish.

My grandpa was of that generation that did not need a good education to get a good job, that stayed in one job for their whole lives, and that had a lot of kids. He had nine boys and three girls, all living in a small home in Sandy that I pass everyday on trax while going to school. It was also a time in the church when a lot of weird "folk" doctrines floated around, especially in the areas of the church where the members didn't have lots of education, which at that time were most. The ten tribes lived at the north pole, or even underground, Cain was wandering the Earth as a sasquatch, and patriarchs would often promise the recipients of their blessings amazing and often unbelievable things.

My grandpa's patriarchal blessing was no exception. In it, he was promised that he would live to see the second coming. No joke. The older he got, the more we all talked about it- how we all needed to repent soon because grandpa was getting older and older which meant that the second coming was near. When he hit 90, we knew the angelic trumpets could only be a few years away at most, though once he started approaching 95 and world conditions weren't lining up quite right I suspected the Patriarch might have been a little overzealous. And I was right- he died last February after 9 and a half well lived decades, and no one I know has been raptured yet. On the day of his funeral, the sun was out and there was a hint of spring on the air. At the Sandy city cemetary there must have been hundreds of people, and I was sure only family and close friends had been invited. There we stood next to his grave which was right next to another freshly dug piece of earth. I didn't think anything of it until the luncheon afterwards. I was sitting with my aunt who had taken care of him the last 20 years of his life and she was handing all the siblings a bill for the funeral. On one line was a fee for the removing of my grandma's coffin to be placed next to my grandpa. That was odd, I thought.

"Why did she need to be moved? Why couldn't grandpa be buried next to her?" I asked my aunt.

"He only bought one plot when she died."

"Didn't he think ahead to his own eventual demise?" I questioned further.

"Oh, well he always believed he would never die, so when grandma died he only bought the one plot, and by the time he died all the space around her had been taken."

Which brings me back to the goodness and the oddness of my grandpa. What faith he must have had to let his belief influence his actions to the extant that he didn't think it necessary to purchase a grave. If only more of us could have belief that strong. And yet, how odd... .


Jenny said...

Every time I think about this story I laugh. Any time Nick and I are in a "prolonged discussion" over possibly contentious issues and I think "will I 'win' this one?" I remember this story. Then I think "I'm married to the grandson of the man who refused to buy a cemetary plot and had to have his wife moved over by him when he died ... no, there's no way I'm winning here" and I try to find some way to simply salvage my dignity. (Crying works well here. Either that or doing the dishes loudly while snorting to myself. Honest).