My dad died two years ago today, on Valentine's Day! He was miserable after my mom died a few months prior. His Alzehiemer's got really bad and thankfully hospice stepped in and helped my dad "let go". They had been married almost 60 years, pretty amazing. I wrote this story because my mom & dad had a special bond, something a lot of us are never able to have. I know I was never able to achieve that while married 22 years to my own special "Mr. Wonderful"! So, on this Valentine's day, two years later after my dad died, it warms my heart to know wherever my parents are they are happy and in love!
Grandpa, Valentine’s Day, and Barbra Streisand
“A Love Story”
My dad, better known as Grandpa, was the one that really perked my interest in antiques. He retired from Edison early, and began to pick up pieces of antique furniture and he would refinish them and my mom would do the re-upholstering on them if needed. They sold their furniture at Vet’s in Long Beach years ago, in the early days of that swap meet. It gave them some extra money to supplement their retirement and kept them busy. But like all things in life, they began to age and lost interest in the business. My dad use to have an old VW bus that he used for his antique business. My kids use to play in it, as if it were their own special playhouse on wheels. The day my dad sold the bus, I knew that part of their lives was over. And as they both were diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer they pretty much kept to themselves the past five years, losing interest in so many things they use to love. It is a story we all know too well.
My mom died at the end of August last year, a few days after my granddaughter Riley was born. Back then we all thought she hung on until Riley was born. She had been in poor health for years. Grandpa was never quite the same after he lost my mom. I would teasingly refer to him as “the bad boy of assisted living”. He would do everything he wasn’t supposed to! I would get calls about his bad behavior but had to admire his spunk! At the end of January he escaped from assisted living. Grandpa went out to buy a can of cat food and a snickers bar at 4 in the morning! He was so angry at himself because he believed that is WHY he had to be put on the dreaded second floor, the Alzheimer unit. I’d go up and have lunch with him, and in full form as Grandpa was most of his life he would tell me he hated everyone there and they better not mess with him or he would beat the hell out of them. I got a little concerned when the guy sitting behind him started to smirk, because I really thought Grandpa “would” beat the hell out of him. That was just the way my dad was, obnoxious.
As his memory began failing, we would talk about who he remembered. Grandpa would always tell me he remembered “that baby”, Riley, his great granddaughter. He wouldn’t always remember exactly “who” her parents were but he remembered the baby nonetheless! Like all Alzheimer stories, the ending is never happy and the process reaching the end is even worse. But my dad, Grandpa, fought it the entire way, that was just him. And thankfully my sister and I were able to rescue him out of the hospital he hated, courtesy of hospice, which took him back to his room in assisted living.
As my oldest daughter Brande says, “random things always happen in our family”. It’s true, that is just the way life works for us. There is always “something” going on! Grandpa died early Valentine’s morning. Less than 24 hours after hospice brought him “home”. I think it was his Valentine gift to my mom. He just didn’t want to live anymore without her. I couldn’t image being married as long as they were, and less than six months after my mom died, I think Grandpa left to say Happy Valentine’s Day to the love of his life. He couldn’t bear a life without her anymore.
Katie, my younger daughter, was working at Country Roads that day. Country Roads is our family business in Old Towne Orange. It was Valentine’s Day, and a little sadness in the air since Grandpa had died. All the staff at the store loved hearing “Grandpa stories” as my dad was always up to something. As the day drew to an end, Barbra Streisand came into the store. Yes, she just randomly walked in the door. She briefly looked around and left. After the store closed, there was a knock on the door, Barbra was back. As she brought her purchases up to the counter and walked away for a few minutes, Katie asked Sarah, who she was working with, “should I ask her for an autograph”. We never do that at the store since we feel it is kind of tacky, and Katie hadn’t really planned on doing it. So, Sarah told Katie, “go for it”. As Barbra came back up to the counter to pay for her purchases, Katie began her request saying, “I feel like a total idiot for asking this, and you can say no, but my mom, she owns the store, absolutely LOVES you, and she is having a really crappy day. Her dad, my grandpa, died this morning”. Barbara looked at Katie and began to ask questions, “how old was your Grandpa, what did he die from?” She shared with Katie that her mom had died from the same thing, but she was 96. She was interested in what had happened. Barbra could have just scribbled her name on a piece of paper, but took the time to write, “So Sorry, Best Wishes, Barbra Streisand”. Katie gave Bab’s a Valentine’s cupcake that one of our dealers had made that day. And off Barbra went with her purchases, a cupcake and husband, James Brolin, who thanked Katie for carrying out a chair his wife had bought. Barbra was gone but the memory of her kindness will always be remembered.
Like Brande says, random stuff always happens to our family. My dad, just an ordinary guy, dies and Barbra Streisand cares, go figure. We’ll all miss Grandpa, but find peace in knowing he spent this Valentine’s Day in a better place, with his wife, and is much happier now. I love Country Roads and not because it is “my” store but because so much random stuff does really happen there!