Six days before Christmas and the ‘final’ everything for Essence has been submitted for publication. It is now time to enjoy the small reprieve before its back to ‘nose to the grindstone’. I suppose I should start my Christmas shopping. I’m so far behind, I will be lucky to have it done by Valentine’s Day! I have started the laundry and am trying to shovel my way through mountains of paperwork, research notes, books, and timelines cluttering my office. I believe there used to be carpet in here but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it I cannot remember what color it is.
But first I have an extremely important date this morning. I am going to visit my grandfather and bring him his Christmas gifts. As a child we used to do the big family Christmas’ where everyone would cram into my grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve, share a cold dinner, mountains of cookies and candies and exchange gifts. But now, our family is so large and spread out I rarely see my extended family on the holidays. My grandparent’s had four children and eleven grandchildren. The first five are close in age, as are the last five. I, of course, am number six, stuck right in the middle with no cousin near my age give a couple years. Now they can add twenty-eight great grandchildren and one great great grandchild to the mix. Getting us all into one location is almost impossible these days. We are spread out about the country from California to South Dakota, Kansas, and several others.
My grandparents were both born in 1918 only a couple months apart. They met in the sixth grade where my grandfather declared his love for my grandmother who aptly replied, as she loved to tell us when we were kids; “Floyd Hyatt, you are the ugliest boy I have ever known and the last man I would ever marry”. Several years later, they were married and it was a union that lasted sixty-seven years until the passing of my grandmother several years ago.
My grandfather turned 95 years young last September. He is one of the few remaining Veterans from World War II. His son served in the Air Force along with one of his grandsons. So far, he has two great grandsons who serve in the Army, one of which is mine. I will never forget the look on his face when my son told him he had enlisted. He was so proud of him.
My grandfather served over three years during WWII, including boot camp, fighting in the Jungles of Burma on the Pacific Front and then waiting around China to come home. I was told he was awarded some metals, but I honestly do not know which ones or for what. As a child, my grandfather would never tell us much about his service during the war. He always said it would give us nightmares. As we have gotten older, he has shared little bits and pieces of his experience in the Pacific, but not much. I do recall him telling me about being cold and wet in a muddy fox hole and having spent the majority of the last seventy-two hours under heavy fire. During a lull moment, his Sargent jumped down in their hole and handed him and the men with him each a can of beans. Before departing them again, he wished them all a Merry Christmas. My grandfather said that those words stung because he and his companions had no idea that it was Christmas.
My grandfather, Floyd E. Hyatt, Sr., served his country proudly, had an extremely successful marriage, and was a man of God who took care of my grandmother with love and devotion until she left us. I remember finding out at my grandparent’s 50th anniversary party that my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It broke my heart, I was thirteen years old. My cousins, all older than I, myself included, remember our grandmother as a loving and kind woman who colored and played games with us as children and read us bedtime stories. When we got older, grandpa would take us to pick berries and then we would spend the rest of the day making homemade jellies and jams. I remember her constantly baking various cookies and candies and her famous Rhubarb pie. To this day cannot smell bacon frying without thinking of her standing in the kitchen with her apron on over her dress making breakfast for grandpa.
I miss those days of helping my grandfather weed the garden and helping my grandmother can all those vegetables at the end of the season. I recall the huge old apple tree in the corner of the yard that us grandchildren would pick apples from. My grandfather would warn us, ‘don’t eat those yet, they aren’t ready, you’ll get sick’, but we rarely listened and almost always ended up with a stomachache. It saddened me greatly when my little cousin, only a few years younger than me, told me he has little to no memories of our grandmother before the Alzheimer’s took over her mind. It broke my heart that he never got to know what an incredible lady she was.
After her diagnosis, my grandfather made the decision that he would take care of her himself. And as the years passed, we could all see how strenuous it was on him. His children tried again to talk him into putting grandmother in a nursing home, but he refused. And by the birth of my third child, over ten years after her initial diagnosis, grandmother no longer knew us or even spoke anymore. A couple years after that, she was bedridden and still, grandpa took care of her. My loving grandmother passed away seventeen years after she was diagnosed and grandpa took tender loving care of her every day, never leaving her side.
My grandfather is not a rich or powerful man. He worked hard, served his country proudly, and built a home and family. He will only be remembered by his family and his many friends once he is gone. He is just an ordinary man who has led an extraordinary life. And he is truly the greatest man I have ever known. I always wanted to marry a man who reminded me of my grandfather, his temperament, his love and devotion, his faith in this world and I was fortunate enough to find such a man. I love you, Grandpa!