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My grandfather, Edwin Preston Parliman, was born on March 31st 1925 in Middletown, New York. He was the oldest of six children. From what I understand his mother was an alcoholic, and would send him to pick dandelions to make wine when he was a little boy. My mother has a photo of him when he was a kid, and I have a very vivid mental image of him toddling through a field picking flowers.

I’m not sure exactly why or when, but my grandfather was sent to live with his aunt when he was a child. She raised him, and though I never had the opportunity to meet her I am very thankful to her for how my grandfather turned out.

Grandpa joined the army right out of high school, I believe, and served in World War II. He never spoke much of his experiences, but I know that he was stationed in Germany and France. I'm also pretty sure that he was in Alaska at some point.

At Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago after perhaps a glass of wine too many, Grandpa mentioned that when he got back from the service everyone was dead and everything was gone. That's not *quite* true, as Auntie was definitely still alive when my mother was a child. Grandpa's siblings were still living, as well.

My grandparents were married on September 11, 1949. Their first child, my mother, was born in February of 1951. My aunt, their second child, was born on what would have been Grandpa's thirtieth birthday. He very generously gifted his birthday to Patti, and so stayed 29 for the rest of his life.

The family lived in Middletown and Queens, before settling in Garnerville. Their daughters graduated from high school in the North Rockland school district.

Grandpa ended up with four grandchildren: Derek, myself, Heather, and my brother Steven. He was a very loving and quirky grandpa, and we all loved him dearly.

I made it to the age of thirty without ever having lost a close family member. (My father's parents passed away before I was old enough to really know them, and I hadn't seen his brother in about a decade when he passed.) I think I should consider myself lucky, but it doesn't feel like a very positive thing.

Grandpa smoked cigarettes for fifty years, more than half of his life. I remember being a small child and bugging him to quit. I was very happy the first time he quit, sad when he started again, and quite pleased when he stopped for good.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Grandpa suffered from COPD for quite some time, and for the past few years needed supplemental oxygen.

The last time I saw him was on Father's Day. He wasn't feeling well, so we brought some leftovers from the cookout at my mother's house to him and Grandma. He definitely wasn't himself, and when we left I told him to feel better, and that I loved him.

A few days later, Mom went to visit and Grandpa was sleeping on the floor in his room. He couldn't get himself up to get into the bed. The next day she called an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

He had pneumonia and a pretty severe UTI. The doctors were hopeful at first, then not, then hospice was discussed, then the doctor said he could still improve, then they were going to take him to hospice, and then....

"Grandpa's gone."

I got the call from my mother at 7AM on July 4th. Independence Day. I think there's some sort of sad irony to be found there. I had a good cry, went back to sleep, and then went to be with my family.

Mom, Aunt Patti, and I took Grandma back to her house. Grandpa's things were everywhere. Mom and Aunt Patti had to find Grandpa's tux to take back to the funeral home. They couldn't find his bow tie at first. Poor Grandma's short term memory is not so good anymore, and she kept forgetting why we were there, and that Grandpa had passed away. It was indescribably difficult to watch her go through that revelation every time she was reminded that he was gone.

Meanwhile, I was barely holding it together. "Why does he need his bow tie?" I thought. "He'll be just as dead if we put him in his cummerbund or his vest, so why does it matter? For chrissakes, he doesn't need shoes!" I kept all of those thoughts and feelings to myself because I didn't want to upset my mother, aunt, or grandmother.

The next day Aunt Patti and I went to Grandma's and cleaned while she relaxed at my mother's house. My dad and Uncle Harold were already there to fix the loose banister that my aunt had discovered the prior day.

I dusted the living room. It took almost an entire box of Swiffer 360's, and it's not perfect, but it got done. The results in the bathroom were similar. Dad did the vacuuming, and then we had to scoot because Grandma wanted to come home.

I had a pretty terrible allergy attack from dusting, and I'm pretty sure the Dust Bunny Mafia has a hit out on me now. It was bad. I took an additional allergy pill when we got back to my mother's house, and I now know that Zyrtec and Alavert DO NOT MIX, even when taken more than twelve hours apart.

The first wake was on Saturday evening. My cousins came in that morning from Wisconsin and Philly. Seeing Grandpa in the coffin was rough. It looked like him, but not like him. He had lost a lot of weight in the hospital.

I gave him one of the cranes I'm folding for my wedding with a little note to him written on the back. Since he won't be able to be there in person, I wanted him to have a little piece of my happy day.

The funeral home was very cold, and the instrumental music they played over the sound system was not helpful. "Somewhere Out There," from An American Tail, Bette Midler's "From a Distance" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" were a few of the ones I recognized. Squeeze my heart just a little harder, why don't you?

After the first wake, Grandma seemed to remember what happened to Grandpa a little better. She said that even though he was quite obviously gone, she still didn't quite believe it, and that she kept thinking he was breathing. This tradition we have of sitting around and staring at our loved ones' dead bodies for a day or two before we bury them is pretty morbid and creepy, don't you think? I tried to keep reminding myself that that was not my grandpa anymore, but it was tough.

Sunday was harder. The veterans did a very moving ceremony during the first viewing. It was absolutely beautiful, and I wish I had been able to get a copy of it. The new minister of our (former?) church showed up as well, and even though he wasn't going to perform the service for Grandpa he offered a prayer. It was his first Sunday in a new church, and it was very nice of him to visit, but I was not impressed with his public speaking skills.

In between viewings we all went back to my mother's house and ate. Steven's girlfriend Kristen and her mother had made penne with vodka sauce and sausage and peppers for us, and there was salad and whatnot. We all ate too much.

During the second viewing the Elks did their ceremony. People just came pouring into the room. It was a very nice ceremony, but I liked the one the veterans did better.

Afterwards it was back to Mom's house again for drinks and snacks. Steve made garlic bread, and broke the microwave in the process. I stayed up way too late, considering the fact that I had to be back at the funeral home at nine thirty the next morning.

The funeral was hard. My mother asked me to do a reading, and of course I said yes. I was given Revelation 21: 1-7, while Heather read Isaiah 40: 1-8, 28-31. Heather barely got through her reading; I managed to hold it together during mine, but I have more public speaking experience. Kristen had advised me not to look up at my mother or grandmother during the reading, so I stayed focused on the piece of paper in front of me.

Reverend Brandt did an excellent job with the service. He addressed my family directly, which I thought was very nice, although he did mistakenly call me Lisa during his prayer for the grandchildren.

There was a point during the service where we could get up and share a memory of Grandpa. My father and uncle both took the opportunity to speak, and I shared the following (modified) quote:

"It's all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Grandpa, or this first parting that there was among us." That's when I lost it.

We all said our tearful goodbyes to Grandpa, and went to our cars. Grandma didn't want to see him shut in the casket, so we all left before that happened and they carried him out to the hearse.

We followed the hearse over the back roads to the cemetery. It's a nice little historic cemetery for veterans and their families.

We could hear a hawk calling in the distance as we gathered at the side of the grave, and there was a huge dragonfly hovering around us the entire time.

Two servicemen played taps and performed the flag ceremony. Seeing them salute Grandpa's casket was really hard for me. Tears rolled down my face as one of them said, "On behalf of the president of the United States..." and handed my mother the flag. Grandma wanted nothing to do with it.

The ceremony concluded, and we left. No one wanted to stick around to see them put Grandpa in the ground.

We all went to lunch at Gilligan's after, and at the end of the meal those of us who partake in such things did a shot of scotch in memory of Grandpa.

Holidays are going to be hard now. I'm sure it will feel like he's just asleep in the next room.

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October 2014

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