When I was in high school, I took a pottery class. I discovered two things: I stick my tongue out when I'm concentrating very hard and I was not cut out to be a potter.
But I made one thing that had lasted until this day. It was a gift for my grandfather. It is a small tile, adorned with a pillow and a blanket. The tile reads: When the going gets tough, the tough take naps!
My Grandfather, for as long as I have known him, took naps. During our summers together we always had to play outside while Grandpa and Grandma were napping, to make sure the house was quiet. Grandpa Don thought naps were the cure to everything.
Recently, my cousin Kaela and I went to visit Grandpa Don and Grandma Ruth. We wanted to say hello in person, to be there for both of them, even for just a few hours. It wasn't an easy trip. We both knew it may be the last time we would see Grandpa Don. But we chatted and even laughed together in Grandpa's room for a while, and then Grandma took us to see their apartment. And there, sitting on the dresser, was the tile. It was smaller than I remembered, and I could tell it had been broken into several pieces and painstakingly glued back together.
Last night my Mom told me Grandpa Don was sleeping a lot; his congestive heart failure made it hard to do much else. It's tough, I thought, and he's taking his naps. And somehow that thought made it slightly better.
Early this morning my Mom called to tell me that Grandpa Don passed away during the night.
First I thought of his proud smile and how I would never see it again. Then I thought of the clip-on holly bow tie he wore every Christmas. And then I thought of the tile on his dresser. And I remembered the last time I saw him. He was eating lunch in the dining room: chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce, and chicken noodle soup. I took Grandpa's hand, kissed him, and told him I loved him. He did the same, and I squeezed his hand for a time before I let go.
Sleep well, Grandpa Don.
I love you.