John “Jack” Cuthill is a wonderful man. He is my grandpa. He passed away this evening so it doesn’t feel right saying “was.”
I didn’t grow up with grandparents living nearby. My dad’s parents spent most of their time living in Florida, and my mom’s parents lived in Big Rapids, MI (almost 4 hours away). Even though Grandpa Jack lived hours away in Big Rapids, it never really felt like he lived that far away. He and my grandma, when she was alive, visited us often. I think my grandpa visited us even more after my grandma passed. We made many trips to visit Grandpa Jack and Grandma Rosemary. In fact, my brother and I referred to our visits as going on vacation because it was always so much fun. My grandparents would have the best snacks for us and usually some kind of small gift waiting. My brother and I are extremely fortunate to have grandparents that cared so much for us.
The minister has asked that the grandchildren write down some memories to be read during the funeral which prompted this blog post (I’m currently wishing I was a better writer). So many of my memories seem random, but they’re important to me. For instance, when I was little I had an assignment that required me to interview one of my grandparents. I know it had something to do with family history, but I remember vividly him telling me about my great grandparents growing up in Scotland. At some point in high school I was upset about a boy and he told me that sometimes games are played in relationships and to avoid those games. Every time he visited us he’d bring a box of doughnuts because we are a family of sweet-tooths. When I’m at a Coney Island and I see someone eating a chili dog I think of Grandpa Jack ordering two chili dogs and a glass of milk. For years when I was little we were pen pals. I can picture his scratchy handwriting perfectly. I don’t have any of those letters, but I have his more recent cards and notes stored away. He gave me his wedding cake topper, which my mom dolled up a bit, to use on my wedding cake. The Detroit Tigers and golf games on TV. Goofy baseball hats and pastel yellow shirts or dress pants. The smell of traditional Neutrogena soap (the orange kind). White Ford Tauruses and Intrepids (he always bought these). Keeping the windows up while driving so his hair wouldn’t get messed up (he didn’t exactly have a full head of hair so this always baffled me). These are some random things that remind me of my grandpa.
When I think about Grandpa Jack, I think about how much he loves me and how proud of me he is. My brother John and I both made him proud when we swam in high school because my grandma was a swimmer when she was young. Almost every time he told me he’s proud of me, he included how proud my grandma is as well even though she passed away over 20 years ago. It made him proud that I chose Rose as my confirmation name; he sent me a large arrangement of flowers which included roses. When Keith and I got married the card he gave us was signed love “Grandpa Jack and Grandma Rosemary.” Grandpa’s never stopped loving her. He’s been to almost all of my big events: First Communion, Confirmation, high school and college graduation, my wedding and more. He’s always at our holiday parties drinking a Manhattan, a glass of wine, or some kind of cocktail while snacking on sweets. I’m incredibly thankful that my grandpa was such a big part of my life. It’s hard to believe that he won’t be here to meet my future children, especially knowing that those plans are so near in the future.
Recently he’s been suffering from a bad hip, knee and back so he hasn’t felt safe making the drive to visit us. I unfortunately haven’t seen him as much as a consequence. Grandpa’s been really depressed because of his hip, knee and back so I made a point of calling him to tell him about school and my blog. My mom’s been keeping him in the loop as well, so whenever we’d talk he wanted to know about the authors I’m talking to and working with. He and my grandma loved reading and books, so he’s been incredibly proud of what I’m doing in my classroom. Grandpa was really down this past summer, but he brightened up so much when I called him after going to Lisa McMann’s for dinner. He loved hearing that story. I went to visit him when he was first in the hospital with a horrible case of pneumonia and using a vent to breathe. Grandpa really wanted to talk to me, but he had to write things out instead. Even in his condition he wrote down one word so I could give him some updates: Authors? When my book club was holding a bake sale to raise money for our library, I called to tell him about it. He loved it and sent us a donation. He was so excited when I called him after winning my district’s Teacher of the Year award. He sent me a card right away with some money to buy more books for my classroom. My school’s community has a small newspaper and I was featured when I won my award. He hasn’t been able to see it, so I remembered to bring it with me yesterday when I went to visit him for the last time in the hospital. He’s been on a vent for the past month, but lately he’s been using a trach, and even though speaking wore him out, he was able to tell me he loves me and is proud of me. Grandpa Jack has been one of my biggest fans my entire life; there’s no one else I’d rather have in my corner.
It’s not easy knowing that my grandpa is no longer with us, but I’m comforted knowing that he’s no longer unhappy and suffering. He’s with my grandma once again, and I know deep in my heart that both of them will always watch over my family.