Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grandpa McEuen

Writer's Note: Today's post was inspired by a really good talk given by Kenny Christensen in church today. He told a story about the last words his grandpa said to him before he died.

If you managed to wade through the 100 things list listed to the side of this blog, you know that being a caul baby, I possess mysterious fortune-telling abilities. For example, I know Kulani will leave his socks on the living room floor when he comes home at night ... before it ever actually happens. And all growing up, I knew my mom was either pregnant or very close to being pregnant (she had 10 kids). Eerie, I know.
But one time my powers manifested themselves in a sobering way that had me blubbering from California to Idaho in a van packed with siblings and a soon-to-be sister-in-law who couldn't stop sucking on my oldest brother's face. Longest road trip of my life.
Grandma and Grandpa McEuen invited all of us to California with them in Spring of 1993. They generously bought us all tickets to Disneyland, provided a hotel room to stay in, and basically gave us a wonderful memory of a great time spent with them.
Rewind for a moment and let me tell you about my Grandpa McEuen. Grandpa contracted rheumatic fever when he was a young boy that caused his heart serious damage. He lived through it, but his heart was never strong. He was turned down from serving in World War II because of his heart. Grandpa met my grandma when they were young living in Southern California. Grandpa was a newly converted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he met Grandma through a mutual friend. Since Grandpa hadn't been a member a full year, they were married in my great-aunt's living room, then later sealed in the Manti Temple. They had four children and lived most of their married life in southern California.
Grandpa was a true product of the "Greatest Generation." He believed in hard work and sacrifice. He embodied the American ideals of good work, a good family life, and faith in God. He worked his way from a machinist for an aerospace company to an engineer and manager. He didn't have any formal college to speak of, but he learned on the job and ended up rather successful.
We thought we'd lost Grandpa in 1982 and then again in 1989. He had some terrible heart problems both times, which required surgery replacing multiple heart valves. The second time he had serious heart problems they had moved from California to Utah, and my mom would take us to visit Grandpa in the ICU in Salt Lake City. I think I was about 12 or 13, and the sight of Grandpa chilled me to the bone. He was skinny and his skin was green looking. I thought he looked like a zombie. He somehow managed to recover, and he even took a trip to Israel and sent a picture back to his heart doctors of him riding on a camel.

So he seemed to be going pretty strong when in 1993 he invited all of his children and grandchildren on the California adventure trip. As is customary in the McEuen family, we were all given a matching T-shirt to wear to Disneyland. Walking from our hotel room to the park, many of us made the comment that we were all Smurfs, with Grandpa being "Papa Smurf."
Here's a picture of some of us in our shirts that day. (Note my brother and then soon-to-be-sister-in-law came up for air long enough to take the picture. Also notice Hetty's fanny pack: still popular with Idahoans deep into the 90s, but really, do they ever go out of style?)
We had a wonderful time. At night we would meet as a family in Grandpa's hotel room, and Grandpa would lead us in prayer. I remember his prayers after surviving heart surgery as though he were intimately talking to God, thanking Him for the extra time he was given to be with his loved ones.
The day we all left back to our homes was a Sunday and my 17th birthday. Grandpa gathered us in one last time for prayer and to say goodbye. Everyone was in good spirits. Grandpa seemed healthy enough to me, but then my rare talent of predicting the future kicked in. Somehow I knew this would be the last time I would see Grandpa alive. I left the gathering as soon as I could to go back to my room to finish packing. What I actually did was hide in the bathroom and baul. I knew I had to tell him goodbye and that I loved him, but I didn't want to be such a freaking baul baby, I mean, it was probably the worst cry of my life. So I tried to gain composure. For a half hour I tried. Cousins and younger siblings kept asking, "What's wrong with her?"
My mom came in to tell me everyone was leaving. She could tell I was crying and asked me why. I told her I needed to see Grandpa one last time. I found him on the steps going out to his car. I hugged him, and through my tears and sobbing, I told him goodbye and that I loved him. He told me he loved me too.
Then we got in the van and drove home. I cried off and on again nearly the whole way to Idaho. All my siblings wondered what was wrong with me, because even with my hormonal teenager self, my crying that day was a little over-the-top. But without telling her, I knew my mom knew that I knew. She told my siblings to leave me alone. She didn't need to tell them why I was being a blubberhead. My mom later told me that Grandpa also knew why I was crying so badly. I guess sometimes the spirit speaks so much deafeningly louder than words.
Grandpa died about three weeks later from heart complications and cancer. I never saw him after that last goodbye. I've always been glad for that small bit of enlightenment that allowed me to say goodbye to him with all my heart.


That's what we said: said...

Wow Cindy. That's beautiful. What a wonderful gift you have.

Patrick Lindsay said...

Ok, Kulani makes me gag and you make me cry. Thanks so much for writing that down.

Amo said...

Cindy: you had the whole family crying from this one. You write beautifully. Dad even called me today to make sure I am reading your blog (Mom prints them out for him to read). I told him I would teach him how to make a comment next time I see him.

I wish I could have been there on that last vacation with Grandpa, but you helped me "remember" it through your beautiful words.