Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I remember, and Thank You

I have long found it quite remarkable--bragged about it, even--that neither Chris nor I had lost any close family members, even grandparents. Since my dad's parents were divorced and both remarried, we even had extra grandparents. Each of our children were born with every single great-grandparent still alive. That's pretty dang impressive.

And last night it changed. At 11:46 pm EDT, I got the call from my dad that Grandpa Petty had passed away. My mom's dad. I was fully expecting the phone call. It was a well-established fact via several phone calls throughout the previous week that Grandpa was not doing well and he was going downhill fast. But even if it isn't a surprise, it's still really hard to go back to sleep after that call.

Instead of sleeping, I found myself writing in my journal. Here are a few things I remember about Grandpa Petty.

I remember driving to his house all those Sundays and playing on the tractor in the shed where all the walls were covered in old, rusty license plates. I remember climbing into the silo and yelling, just to hear the echo. I remember exploring the abandoned chicken coop-turned apartment. I found an old (really old) bottle of Vicks Vaporub and some nail polish, but we left because of my dad's story about mice. I remember walking the railroad tracks out back to get to the park where I was born and I remember swimming in the ditch out front.

I remember riding in the back of the big blue pick-up truck, more thna  dozen of us piled in and fighting over who got to sit on the tire hump. I remember Grandpa quoting the license plate frame--Get in, Sit down, Shut up & Hold on. I remember pretending not to care, but then carefully picking out every black watermelon seed so I wouldn't grow hair on my chest like Grandpa said I would.

I remember singing Hey, Good Lookin' with him and playing the guitar he bought for me. I remember that a man only needs three things in this life--the gospel, a good woman, and a pick up truck. I remember that he always took the time to tell me he was glad I was there and he missed me when I was gone and that I am important. He was always proud of me.

I remember his smile every time he saw my Audrey Jane. He always always knew her, even when in the end he often introduced her to me as if we'd never met. I remember hearing the same stories over and over and never being sure how much was true, though I wished it all was.

I remember his requests for trips to McDonald's for a 50-cent hamburger. I remember his hats. He always wore a hat.

And I remember how he always talked about Christ, even if it didn't seem to have anything to do with the conversation. 2 Ne. 25:26.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is alive and well and happy and strong again at this moment. I am certain he is anxious and glad to be able to work again. I know that death in this life is nothing even like an end. There is still pain and sorrow in those left behind, but there is reassurance that the veil is only a temporary barrier between this life and the next. I don't feel sad for Grandpa Petty, but I do feel sad for Grandma who has lost her sweetheart and honey, and for Mom who has lost her dad, and for Jane who has lost a great friend whom she only barely knew.

 With permission, I want to share the letter my mom posted on Facebook this morning.

Dear Dad,

Thank you for marrying Mom and welcoming me, my brother and sisters to this life.

Thank you for giving us the best yard in the town of Riverton Utah, including a swing set, monkey bars, a sandbox, a wagon wheel merry-go-round, flooded grass on irrigation day, an odd teeter-totter thingy, a two-story treehouse, and a front lawn big enough to play baseball in (sorry about the broken windows).

Thank you for teaching me how to bridle, saddle, and ride a horse.

Thank you letting me drive the car. Thank you for teaching me how to drive a stick shift...in your truck....with the camper on it....as we hopped down the street until I got a feel for the clutch.

Thank you for not getting too mad at me when you had to call Grandma Baker's house to get someone to come to our house to tell me to get off the phone so you could call Mom.

Thank you for going to the temple with me my first time and taking us all to South Seas for dinner afterward. Thank you for sharing how important the gospel and the temple are to you.

Thank you for giving me kisses without slobbering.

Thank you for teaching me the importance of family. And for showing me that family isn't just blood relatives, but anyone who needs you, helps you, or loves you.

Thank you for demonstrating a sense of patriotism that is now embedded in my soul - standing and saluting the flag, honoring our veterans and soldiers, and respecting our leaders,

Thank you for loving my Mom from the first day you met her, through 58 years of marriage, and still today from heaven.

Thank you for loving me, all day, everyday. I miss you.

Love, your number one daughter,

A lot can be said about a man's character by what those close to him say.  
In loving memory of John Clayton Petty, here are the words of his descendants.

As dad would say, "You're a very important part of our family." We lost a legend tonight, I love you the mostest dad. ~Becky

 I love my dad. I thank my kids for loving him, too. Mostly, I thank my mom for loving him. I love you mom. ~Kaylene

 My hero, my friend, my example, my Dad returned to his Heavenly Father tonight. They got a great man. Heaven is a little brighter. You are a very important part of our family. I love you the mostest! ~Nancy

 We Love and will deeply miss You John! You have been my second father and have enriched our lives deeply!! ~Scott, Nancy's husband

We lost a wonderful man last night. Grandpa was always quick with a smile and never failed to tell us how happy he was to see us and to come back soon. He taught me how to appreciate the small things in life and how to wiggle my ears. I'm glad I was able to say goodbye, and even more glad that he's somewhere out there happy and healthy. I love you Grandpa!!! ~Amy, Karrie's daughter

"Three things you need in this world: a wonderful family, the Lord, and a pickup truck." Love you, Grandpa Petty. ~Charisse, Cory's wife

Grandpa I'm gonna miss you, whenever us grand kids would come to your house you alway greater us with, "hey good lookin, what's ya got cookin" you always knew how to make us smile and any function we had you would always say look at my granddaughter she can do these cartwheel things. And you would have me do my tricks. You were always proud of us even when we were not doing the best. Younger greatly admired and always will be. I love you grandpa! ~Lillian, Becky's daughter

My favorite memory of Grandpa Petty was when I would come visit and he would take me in his pickup truck to the grocery store, then to Arctic Circle for ice cream. Everywhere we went, Grandpa knew everyone. He was such an amazing man! Heaven gained a hero as an angel today. Grandma, I love you! Grandpa will still always be with his "honey". Rest easy, big guy. ~Lynsey, Kaylene's daughter

Rest in peace, Grandpa. I'm so thankful I got to see you one last time in June. I still remember when you kicked my butt because I wouldn't eat beans. You never took any crap from anyone and I'll always look up to you. ~Matthew, Reed's son

Grandpa Petty and I used to sing Johnny Cash songs on the way to McDonalds. ~Cory, Kaylene's son (p.s. I know this is nothing compared to your paper about him, but it was too long for one blog post!)

Today the world has lost a very loving wonderful man. They call him (GRANDPA PETTY) or some call him (DAD) and (HUSBAND) We are all lost for words right now. I am so luck to have been part of ur family and got to know u and spend time with u and hear all of ur story's thanks for that. We have all been blessed to have u in are life. Grandpa u will be missed very much. XOXO ~Natasha, Travis's wife

In honor of my grandpa, John Clayton Petty. Thanks for cheating all those times at hand and foot. We even won once or twice. ~Deborah, Karrie's daughter

I love you Grandma Petty. I hope you know that even though Grandpa isn't there for you in the physical form anymore, he will always be walking beside his 'sweetheart' and holding your hand spiritually every day. ~Kristen, Reed's daughter

Grandpa you were always someone I looked up to. Who I was always excited to see. You lived a great life and were such a great example to everyone. I am grateful for the time we have had you here, grateful that you got to meet my first born son. "You are an important part of our family" and you always will be.. love you grandpa!! ..until we meet again. ~Carli, Nancy's daughter

I love you, grandpa. You were my best friend for 25 years. I will never forget walking out to your tool sheds with you and Joshua just so you could talk about what each one was for and to let us choose one to take home. You were a great man, husband, father, grandfather and leader. Rest in peace, you deserve it. I will always remember you. Please watch over all of us for the remainder of our lives on earth. Til we meet again... ~Travis, Nancy's son

"I love you the mostest!" That's what Grandpa Petty would say to me every time he saw me. I love you grandpa, you will be forever missed! ~Jessica, Becky's daughter

Almost an hour ago a man who has been my best friend passed away. He would take me to McDonald's to have that beloved Happy Meal. I would steal his Navy hat as a kid and I would officially be the boss of everything. He is what made me who I am today. He will be missed by many. Love you grandpa. ~Spencer, Nancy's son

Whenever I saw Grandpa Petty, he would always say, "Do you remember what I told you? We sure are proud of you. You're a good man." Well, Grandpa, I remember. I sure am proud of you. You're a good man. I'll miss you. ~Eric, Kaylene's son
I just found out my grandpa passed away today. He was a great man. Going to miss you grandpa. Love you. ~Joshua, Nancy's son

I remember when Grandpa Petty used to ask me to play Hank Williams on the piano because Hank was his favorite. ~Kristen, Reed's daughter

He will be truly missed, i remember carving a mountain into the fender on his truck. He thought it was the coolest thing. And he never had it fixed, its still there to this day. I honor that man. He tought me countless things about everything. ~Tyler, Nancy's son

I love you, Grandpa. ~Lynsey, Kaylene's daughter


tonyandwendib said...

What an amazing tribute to your grandfather. It sounds like The Lord has gained a special guy. My condolences to you and your family on the loss of a great man.

Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

It's always hard to lose a loved one. And it sounds like your grandpa was a great guy! That really is impressive you still had all your grandparents here with you. I only have one grandpa left and Karl only has one grandma left. I so wish my kids could really know my grandparents. Heck, I wish I really knew my moms parents. They died when I was one... But anyway, reading about your childhood memories reminded me of so many of my own. Spending our days out on the farm, exploring and being adventurous.

Mandy Vermillion said...

It sounds like he has left a wonderful legacy for so many people to cherish. Sorry for your loss.