Sunday we held a memorial service for my grandfather in the retirement community where he spent his last several years of life. About 140 people showed up to spend two and a half hours listening to and telling stories about the person they knew. It turns out that his generous spirit, contagious smile, enthusiasm for life and infectious personality reached beyond his gene pool and touched hundreds of others. He was remembered as a prankster, a sweetheart, a gentleman, and an inspiration.
For the first time in decades (maybe ever), my grandfather's entire collection of descendants was together. Overwhelmingly female, overwhelmingly possessed of a dry, sometimes raunchy sense of humor, we set out to have a good time. Saturday began with a gathering at the cemetery where we remembered both my grandfather and his wife of 50+ years and put them to rest together in the same urn. The wind howled outside, lightning flashed and the dark grey clouds hovered low in the sky. We huddled together inside the marble shelter that houses the ashes of people of all ages and backgrounds, telling stories of the man we knew - an independent, fiercely determined person who never failed to find the humor in life.
As we retreated to our cars, the first fat drops of rain began to fall. In this part of California thunderstorms are an unusual phenomenon, but a biggie was forecast for Saturday night. As the four of us in the car chatted about the wild weather I caught sight of the rippled mountains ahead of us - stretched above them were the arcs of two of the most gorgeous rainbows I have ever seen.
Saturday night found us, all forty of us, in the back room of Grandpa's favorite restaurant celebrating his life. Bubba ordered a martini with extra olives, Grandpa's favorite, and we toasted him while the great-grandchildren played on the floor, giggling and scooting around underneath the tables.
Following the memorial service and the 21-putt salute (Grandpa was an obsessive golfer), we all trouped over to my aunt's house for a feast of enchiladas and salad. This family is tight-knit, supportive and full of life. We love to eat, tell jokes, reminisce, and be together. The women in this family (my grandfather had four daughters and one son) are strong-willed and independent and have taught their daughters to be the same. Of the grandchildren, only two are boys and the other seven are girls. The men that are part of these women's lives are not easily frightened by smart women and tend to band together in humor. Bubba fits right in. The evening was overwhelmingly full of laughter and only a few tears. This man, this inspiration, this incredible person who is the reason we are all here has much to be proud of. He taught us to love life and live life. That is one mandate we are all willing to follow.