My grandfather, Arthur H. Ohlmann, passed away early this morning at the age of 84. He was going to be 85 in June.
He went into the hospital about a week ago. I told a friend that I expected him to remain there for a week. However, I did expect him to go home again, back to the assisted living center. I didn't expect him to spend his final days there at all.
I found out at around 0445 today, via text message from his son - my uncle, my mother's brother - that he was gone. I think my exact words were, "What! Oh, my God! What?! Oh, my GOD!" because the last thing I thought was that he would die without me calling one last time to say good-bye, or being there to hold his hand, or looking upon his frail face with love and adoration...
Yeah. I'm in shock, I'm certain. I know that the time will come for me to fall apart, like my sister did when I immediately called to tell her, but I haven't yet. I can feel it coming, but so far I've been mostly stoic. Which is entirely uncharacteristic of normally-overly-emotional me, so I know I'm just holding it in until I'm ready to process and deal with it.
I feel guilty. The last three or four times I tried to call him at the hospital, there was no answer. I just attributed it to him being asleep, or busy with a nurse, or just plain not in the mood to reach over and pick up the phone. I didn't know that the last time I talked to him would have been days ago, for just a few minutes, with me telling him I'd call him back in a little while because the nurse was in there.
On the other hand, I feel good. He got the letter I sent him, the open one that I published here, and he cherished it. He said he wanted to be buried with it. It made him cry happy tears to know that Stacey and I loved him as thoroughly as we did, and he even said he thought about sending it to the newspaper to be published. So, he knew. He knew that he was loved with our whole hearts.
He was a good man. The very best man I ever knew. A model of a man. He rarely had an unkind or angry word for anyone. I never in my life heard him swear. The worst he ever said, when he was REALLY upset, was, "What the Sam Hill?!" He never drank alcohol. Ever. He went out of his way to be helpful, to be cheerful, to be kind. He was sweet.
My grandpa grew up in Connecticut, but he lived first in the Bronx, and later in New Jersey, with my grandmother. Grandma's buried in Jersey, and he'll be with her. Forever. On Monday, March 7th, it would have been something like their 63rd wedding anniversary. He mentioned that on Sunday. He never forgot. He always remembered my birthday, too. He liked to tell me about when I was a little kid - really little - how I'd call him up and remind of when my birthday was. Not that he needed it, because that's the kind of guy he was.
We were going to go and visit him this summer. I've been doing these resort shops all over the Eastern half of this country, and I was going to try and line up a bunch of them in a row in Florida, so I could go and visit him and make sure the kids had a good experience with him, too. The last time we saw him was in January, 2007, when they were 1, 3, and 5. Not old enough to remember how fantastic he was. They had a great time jumping on his bed, though. I'm so sad that we didn't make it down there in time for one last visit. He wanted to see me like I am now, much thinner and healthier, and he didn't get that.
I was going to take him out for a feast of lobster and shrimp and crab - whatever he wanted. He really wanted a lobster dinner, and I had promised it to him. Too late for that now, too.
It's like my heart is broken but it hasn't shattered yet. It's still being held together by memories, I guess, and I have plenty of those to cherish. I thank God for every day He gave me with my grandpa, and I thank Him for keeping him now. He's with my grandma, my mother, and my son - and his own firstborn, as well. I suspect he's overjoyed to be reunited with all of them. I suppose they are just as happy to have him around, too.
Oh, that guy. That funny, silly, old coot. I'm going to miss him like crazy. I already do.