Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Hard Working Man Finds Rest

This post is dedicated to my Granddaddy, George Raymond Wilhide II

My Grandfather died today.  My father was with him as he took his last breath.  It was peaceful and seamless from what I am told.  It doesn't feel real yet.  Being home while he was in the hospital in North Carolina has made me feel detached.  I'd been receiving updates since Sunday night when my Dad and brother's arrived.  I keep bursting into tears at random moments.  I feel such a great loss, and yet I am so numb to it.  I assume it's my minds defense to feel less right now.  Deciding to stay home; recognizing the pain inside of me surrounding TJ's death and Grandpa's illness was, and is, overwhelming.  I know I couldn't handle it.  It's going to get worse when the boys come home tomorrow.

Grandpa, me, and the boys

He loved us so much.  I can't stop hearing his voice in my head.  He was born and raised in Norfolk, VA.  He's got a slight twang in his voice that I can never mimic.  He'd called me "Courtney Annie" and "Darlin".  He'd leave voicemail messages like "Courtney Annie, this is your Granddaddy.  Call me back when you get this, there's no rush, and don't call me while you're driving.  Bye bye."  I have one saved that he left me a month or so ago.  I haven't been able to listen to it yet.  I can hear his voice so clearly in my head.  I'm going to hang on to that as long as I can, the sound of his voice.

Something is funny, and only he and I know about it.

He was in the merchant marines during World War II.  He traveled all over the world.  He and a buddy stole a train, he drove a cab and sold liquor to sailors out of his trunk, he got arrested for knocking out another guy, he went on a date with one girl and ended up wooing my grandmother instead that same night.  He was so smooth, even my grandmother to this day says she had no idea she was getting married, even when they were standing in front of the judge.  There isn't a person who's met him that hasn't loved him from the start.  He was so charming.  You should have seen all of his nurses over the years.  I took him to a few appointments and one in particular was amazing to me.  It was about a year ago, and I had to take him to the eye doctor in Towson.  We'd gotten settled in the waiting room, and I'd left him to go use the rest room.  When I got back he was leaning on one elbow over the nurses desk, and there were about three or four of them gathered around him like moths to a flame.  They were all smiling, giggling, and blushing.  And the thing is, he was never fresh.  Just had a way about him that made everyone feel special.  When his name was called back, all of the nurses watched him walk away with disappointment on their faces.  One called after him "We'll get that drink after you're finished".  "OK!" he shouted back at her from over his shoulder.  That's the kind of man my grandfather was.  Infectious.

How I Picture Raymond
 Grandpa was also smart as a whip and tough as nails.  He started his own painting business.  One my father runs today, and my brother has plans to continue for our family.  Grandpa worked hard all the time.  He built his beach house with his own hands.  My father helped.  If Grandpa was breathing, he was working.  Even a week and a half ago I was with him in North Carolina and he was trying to drill in some slats in the railing that had come loose in the hurricane.  Strapped with his oxygen tank and tubes up his nose, he sat down on the deck with power drill in hand.  He eventually acquiesced and let Dad put the screws in.  It was really hard in the past few years for him to ask for help.  Even when I saw him last, he hated to ask me to bring him even a glass of water and some pills.  He was always able to do everything for himself.  More like he could do anything for himself.  He really was a jack of all trades.  He could fix your car, make a killer steak, paint your house, and make you forget you were ever mad about something he said.

Silliness with Hats
He was always teasing us.  He'd wrap his arms around us, pinning our arms down and daring us to try to break away.  He'd challenge us to punch him, and pretend it hurt really badly when we tapped his arm.  Grandpa loved try and get a rise; "How old are you?  Oh that's right, you're only five..." "But Grandpa, I'm eight now!"  or "You don't know how to use a knife, you're just a baby..." and we'd be at least 10 years old or something.  It was always "I bet you can't do this" or "I bet you can't do that".  He'd quiz us on math all the time.  All the time!  "What's 1,549 plus 3,571?"  He'd barely give us time to answer before he'd blurt out the correct number.  I'd checked him on a calculator and he was always right.  Genius at math, that man.  He would have contests with me to see if he could look up a phone number in the phone book faster than I could google it.  I always won those, though.  Ah, technology.

My Happy Place

My grandpa built my happy place.  It's where I spent my summers, it's where I lived and worked right out of college.  It's where I played with him in the surf as a child, it's where my husband told me that he wanted to start a family.  It's where I ran to this summer to get some peace of mind.  It's the last place I saw my grandpa before he died.  When I walk in, I inhale and revel in the scent of sea air and tobacco.  I look up at the marlin that he caught and had mounted on the wall.  I see his many golf awards and his tumblers with Duck Woods Country Club etched into the glass.  In the cabinet are his putter swizzle sticks, his McNaughtons, his "El Cheapo Vodka".  In the hall closet is his Cattle Queen towel and his bright green polyester shirt from 1975.  Everything about that house in Duck, NC screams "RAYMOND" to me.  I'm unsure of it's fate.  But I know that my Grandpa will always remain with me, no matter where I am.  He was always looking out for us, and I know that job will never end for him if he has anything to say about it.

Grandpa, I love you.  I'm so sad that you had to go, but I know you needed to rest.  All of those years of working and worrying and doing.  We will miss you terribly and it will be hard, but you taught us well.  We will be ok.  Now it's your turn to rest.


  1. Beautiful post, and a testament to such a wonderful family man.

  2. Just lovely Sweetie. What a darling granddaughter you are. I feel like I know him through your words. Wonderful.