But because Granddaddy is so awesome, he decided that he wanted Grandma for himself. So when he went in, he asked her if she'd like to go drive with him and got her best friend to agree to go out with his own best friend instead.
They went driving that night after my grandma left work because "that's what we did back then!" my grandma always says. They immediately liked each other and went out every night for the rest of the week. At the end of that week, my granddad had to leave because he was in the military and had received orders.
While he was gone, they exchanged letters constantly. Over the course of a few months, they fell in love via the written word. When he returned home, he immediately went to see her and asked her to marry him. She said yes, and before you know it, they were at a justice of the peace, signing legal documents and becoming husband and wife.
50+ years later, they were still married. After two daughters, serving in Vietnam, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild, my granddaddy passed away.
The day before he passed, he wasn't having an easy time. He was in and out, there and not there, lucid and gone. My grandma was sitting in front of him, holding his hands, and talking to him. He kept saying, "Mama... Mama..." again and again. "Is Mama home?" he asked his wife. "Yes, James, she is," my grandma replied, not wanting to clarify that his mother was in her heavenly home. "Beautiful eyes, Mama," he said, as if he were talking to his deceased mother. "Mama's home... and I'm going home," he told her.
Later that night, he was being put in bed by his nurses. As they were getting him ready, he requested that they send his wife in to tuck him in. "She knows how to do it," he told them. She put him in bed, and that was the last moment they had together.
The next day, he passed away.
I know that he didn't die alone, because his mother came to get him and take him with her. I don't think he was scared at all. I think he was ready to be with his mother and brother in Heaven at last.
At the funeral, everyone spoke of how my grandfather was one of the funniest people they ever met. Even when he could barely walk, he still made it to church, he still made fun of people, and he still found ways to drive my grandma crazy.
He was a skilled carpenter who could make any animal I requested. He was a war veteran, who had accomplished so much in his 20+ years in the military. He grew up a poor boy on a farm and built an entire life with his family, thanks to hard work and dedication. You never knew if a story he was telling was true or not, but I always liked to believe they were.
He once told us about the time he hitched a ride with a neighbor on the way back from town. He rode in the back of the truck with his friend and noticed that there were bags and bags of fruit inside. The man driving the truck was very poor and had bought the fruit for his eleven children for Christmas. He stopped at a "friend's" house (so my granddad says), and the friend was not his wife. While the man was inside, my granddaddy and his friend ate every piece of fruit in the back of that truck and took off.
He thought that story was hilarious. "He shouldn't have been messin' around on his wife!" he always said.
We saw him one last time in the casket before they closed the top and brought him to the burial site. A beautiful American flag was draped over the top and the U. S. Air Force medallion was on the side. The honor guards marched out, folded the flag into a perfect triangle, and stood at attention during the playing of Taps. After the last note, the guard turned toward my grandmother, presented her with the flag, and saluted her in honor of her husband and all that he had done for our country.
"This body is not James," said the preacher afterwards. "This is simply the body that James lived in while he was here. James is in our hearts, he's in our souls, he's in our memory. Every time you remember him, he lives on."
Granddaddy, you were one amazing person, and Heaven is lucky to have you.
But maybe you should try not to laugh so much when you're telling God that story about stealing the fruit, okay?