On Thursday my maternal grandfather died. He'd been having health problems for a while now. Last monday he fell and broke his hip, which to be honest, I didn't think was going to be a big deal. He'd broken it before, but this time he developed complications in the hospital. He had a heart attack, during which oxygen deprivation caused a stroke. By the time I arrived in Sacramento they had him hooked up to tubes making him breathe, though his heart was going strong. My mom's family met and discussed the options, though I gathered there really weren't any. The doctors performed a few brain activity tests, pro forma I think, and that was basically his last chance. The DNR was signed, the machines unplugged, and that was that.
I didn't really know my grandfather very well. He was always sort of a remote figure, not only by distance, but by personality. I always got the feeling that he didn't like me very much, though he may simply have been that way with everyone. For my part I had no lack of respect for him, but admittedly I regarded him on a personal level no greater than he did me. Gruff criticsm was the tenor of most of our conversations, and he had such an objection to trivialities; trivialities that to me not only make life bearable, but indeed encapsulate the entire point of living. He saw the Great Depression and fought in World War II. Life was a struggle to him, and my desire to simply coast by must have struck him as exceedingly indulgent. I, of course, never found such severity endearing.
All of this is not to say that he was a humorless man. Far from it. My grandfather enjoyed sports and music. He loved card games, especially cribbage. At the time of his death our cribbage series was tied up, and I guess now that's the way it'll stay. Many older people find new ages and new things disturbing, but my grandfather truly seemed to enjoy the wonders of modern life. I installed his first modem and he'd surfed ever since. Until his condition deteriorated to make it impractical, he had an active daily routine that included shopping and socializing with neighbors he'd lived near for more than thirty years. His body gave out before his will did, and in that I think is to be found the most profound inspiration.