On the Fourth of July, the world lost an amazing man. Matt's grandfather, Frank, passed away at the incredible age of 95.
While it wasn't unexpected, it is never easy to lose a person that you have been blessed to spend so much time with.
It is unreal to me that my husband has 41 years with him – that is crazy! And then that Emily KNEW her great-grandfather! The last of my grandparents died 9 years ago and while Emily met my grandmother, at 1-1/2 years, she obviously doesn't remember her.
Frank lived on a ranch in New Mexico, about 11 hours away from us. We didn't get to see him much after moving to the Austin area. About once a year at most is all.
The past two years were a steady decline, and I am so grateful that we were able to see in February before he took a big turn for the worse. We saw him still walking around, with the smile on his face that he always wore and in the same cheerful mood that was just Frank.
From WWII soldier to cattle rancher, to grandfather and great-grandfather, the man had a lot of stories to tell.
I never heard Frank say one negative thing about anyone. Not one. While I am sure he had negative feelings about some, he was just the kind of unique man to keep that all to himself.
The first time I met Frank was when Matt and I were dating in Lubbock, TX. We drove out to the ranch where Frank was waiting on us to do chores. We got in the truck and headed out to the pasture. He handed Matt a shovel, me a PVC pipe and he had a bucket of pellets. Now what I am about to tell you might bother some – it sure did bother me! But there is a reason I share this tale.
Matt would find a hole, make it bigger with the shovel so I could shove one end of the PVC pipe into the hole, Frank would add some pellets through the opening in the pipe, they would go down the pipe into the hole, we removed the pipe and Matt would cover up the hole. After about a dozen times later, I finally asked what we were doing. That was the wrong thing to do. Ignorance is bliss people! Frank said, “We are killing prairie dogs.” The look on my face must have spoken volumes. In Lubbock, one of my favorite quiet places to go was to the prairie dog park where you could sit and watch these cute little guys play and eat.
Frank lowered the tailgate of the truck and indicated that I was to join him in sitting on the tailgate. He told me the story about how if you didn't, they would keep creating more holes in the ground and then the cows get a leg down in the hole, break a leg and die. At this point, I would have thought this to be better than the prairie dogs. He explained more about the circle of life, how many families depended on him and his ranch for food. I was getting more and more alright with it. I didn't like it, but I understood better.
He then looked me right in the face and asked me, “Where did you grow up?”
My response, “Houston.”
His shook his head and said, “Let's call it a day and go eat ice cream.”
You see, Frank always had ice cream in his deep freeze. And ate cookies for breakfast for as long as I knew him. While we all worry about carb free this and count points here, the man ate cookies for breakfast every morning and ice cream every day – he lived to be 95 eating like this!!!
I still don't understand the rancher's life, but the more I was around Frank, the more I learned. I definitely wasn't in the city anymore!
It was always a long drive to go see him, and it was always worth it.
The only good thing about the long drive up to the panhandle of Texas for his funeral was the amount of time that my husband had uninterrupted time to share countless stories about fishing with Frank, working the ranch, riding horses, learning to drive in a van on the ranch and on and on and on.
Matt is blessed to have an amazing family. Two fantastic aunts that have their daddy's smile. A fun loving sister and more cousins than I can count. The amount of joy and laughter that is around when we are with them, even after saying goodbye to Frank, was amazing. They each shared funny stories, most I had never heard. From one of them catching Frank's thumb with a fishing hook to how he let the grandkids take turns driving the van on the flatland of their ranch at a very young age.
While we are sad, we are also happy knowing that Frank is with his wife Verna in a place so beautiful that if he was given a choice to come back or stay there, he wouldn't hesitate one second to stay exactly where he is.
I've never seen or heard the military bell at a funeral, even though I have been to too many military funerals, but it was ringing for Frank. The 21 gun salute a loud send off and the honor riders there to honor him were just the small touches that had us each crying.
He knew the secret to a long life. He loved all his kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, siblings, in laws, etc so greatly. He was always appreciative of everything. He never spoke ill of anyone. Fried meat and potatoes are your friend, and it is ok to eat ice cream everyday as long as you have cookies for breakfast! He was a hero in more than just the eyes of the military – that is for sure!
Thank you for allowing me to share about Frank. Many of you asked where I was when I wasn't posting on my blog, and I wanted to share a bit of him with you. Go hug your family and tell them you love them!