Years of caring for my ailing grandmother certainly took its toll on his health and happiness. He sacrificed a lot for her and as far as I know he never asked for anything in return. After she passed his health and sense of purpose seemed to pass with her. In my view he was lost, and struggled with the void that was once filled with caring for his ill wife. A few years later grandpa Kromer passed away from some pretty chronic health issues. His passing was rather quick after the diagnosis. I am fairly certain he knew there was something wrong, but chose not to seek help or fight it. Without someone to care for or a purpose it was easier for him to let go. I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye, I was in my early 20’s living across the country and pretty poor at the time.
I was also a little bit angry. I am certain most would agree his passing could have been delayed or prolonged if he wasn't so darn stubborn (Stubbornness may run on both sides of my family). I haven’t thought about this in a long time and as I reflect back, I now know I had no right to be angry at him. He was a good man, devoted husband and father. He worked hard and I can’t remember ever hearing him gripe. I believe he did his best with what he had. The loss of my grandmother and sudden change in roles from caretaker must have had a profound impact on who he was and his purpose in life.
I can remember back to when I was probably 5 or 6 and he still had a little sparkle in his eyes, especially when he saw his grandchildren. He used to say, “I was built like a brick shit house.” I was too young to really know what he meant by that and as a kid I always thought he was saying I was fat. As an adult I like to think a little bit differently. I want to believe that he was trying to say that I was solid, I could withstand any crap life could throw at me and that my strength would keep me standing through any storm.
I can see some of the traits in my grandfather that have been passed down to my mother and myself. There is the courage to face things that scare us. I see this most in my mom. She too was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and faced the fear of ending up in the same circumstances as her mother. Thankfully advancements in the treatment of this disease have come a long way. While she still struggles with pain and mobility sometimes I have to applaud her courage and outlook. She works at eating healthy and exercising. While every once in while she can be a bit grouchy, as we all can be, she is an amazing person who has a love and devotion to her family and friends that cannot be questioned. She and my grandfather are a large part of the person I have become and hope to be in the future.
While I may never agree with how grandpa Kromer chose to leave this world, I have accepted it and grown from it. What I have learned is that having a purpose is a large part of whom you are and who you choose to be. I have also learned that if that purpose is taken away you have to be open minded enough to adapt and allow yourself to find a new passion. Most of all I have learned that while being a brick shit house may not be glamorous, it certainly serves an important purpose in life. I can say that no matter what people do to me or what storms try to knock me down, when the dust settles I will still be standing strong and proud!
Stay tuned for reflections on Grandpa McCrae.