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Johnny. That’s what we called him and that’s how he referred to himself. Johnny was my maternal grandfather. Johnny loved me and I loved him. He’s no longer here with us, but I still love him. Dearly.
I’m the only one of his four granddaughters who really knew him. My baby sister is almost six years younger than me, so she only knows of the sadder times with Johnny. My older cousins never knew Johnny. They knew him as grandpa, but they didn’t have the relationship he and I did.
Johnny was a man’s man. He fought in World World II and his service in the U.S, Army provided him the opportunity to see the world. His favorite place he visited while on duty was Sydney, Australia. He told me I should go visit and someday I plan to.
Being a manly man, Johnny helped build the interstate system in Colorado. Next time you’re in Vail, Colorado and your driving on I-70 over Vail Pass, know Johnny helped build those dangerous, beautiful passes.
He was a miner in the Climax mine. Climax’s claim to fame is its huge deposit of molybdenum ore. The mine supplied three-fourths of the world’s supply of the metal when he was there. Johnny lost his left index finger in a mining accident and he called it his nub.
He loved me, but he didn’t always say I love you. No, he showed it. When I was a Brownie in Girl Scouts, Johnny took me door-to-door to sell cookies. He used to take me to the playground to play and when my tummy would hurt from the tire swing, he happily carried me home. When I spent a summer with my grandparents and a swarm of mosquitoes attacked me while I was riding my big wheels, Johnny came running up and swept me inside.
There was never a ballet recital he missed. If I was cheering or singing the National Anthem at a sporting event, Johnny was there. At my high school graduation he was there smiling proudly. He’d come visit me while I was working in the mall and every weekend Johnny and I would go to Target. That probably explains my love affair with the store.
But things weren’t always happy. Johnny was diagnosed with malaria during the war. His service in the Army also led to his depression. Many years of my childhood were spent at the V.A. Hospital. At the V.A. Johnny received many rounds of electric shock treatment.
I will never forget one of the times he went to the hospital for a depression related event. I was 7-years-old and my cousin was visiting from out of town. My aunt came to pick her up and somehow a battle brewed between Johnny, grandma, my aunt and mom. My cousin and I were hiding in my room, staring out the window watching three women force Johhny into the car. She was shocked. I was crying. I knew what this meant. Another long stay at the V.A.
And so it continued. He’d go in for a month or two, be released and few years later he’d back in again. He hated it. I hated it.
Johnny loved Las Vegas. One time, when he and grandma were fighting and she threatened to put him back in the V.A. he got into the car and drove to Vegas. He ran out of gas in Utah, but he was going to the place he loved. He was stubborn and I like to think I get my strong will from him.
As the years passed on I noticed a change in his behavior. Often he would sit with eyes closed and hum. I thought he was losing it mentally, but now I understand it. There are times when I close my eyes to block out being constantly bombarded by know-it-alls and negativity.
In November of my senior year of college, Johnny fell in our driveway and hurt his hip. He was off to the dreaded V.A. After a few months in the hospital, he was transferred over to the V.A. nursing home. It was a dreadful, depressing place.
I graduated college and he missed it. It was the first event in my life where Johnny wasn’t there. I moved to Vegas to start a new life. Maybe in part for Johnny.
In May, almost a year and a half later, Johnny was still in the V.A. nursing home. I came home for my sister’s high school graduation. I was six months pregnant and I didn’t get to visit Johnny. No one wanted to expose my baby to the germs at the V.A. The day after her graduation we got the call. Johnny was gone.
We were shocked! What happened? No one saw it coming. The night before my dad, dog and grandma visited Johnny. Dad said Johnny’s spirits were high and he was full of life. He was playing with my dog and was thrilled his “Cassidy” was home. I choose to believe he was happy because he knew he was going home. He would finally be at peace. No more depression demons to haunt him.
I couldn’t get anymore time off from work so I ended-up missing Johnny’s funeral. I never got to say goodbye. I still grieve losing one of the few people who loved me unconditionally. He loved me with no strings attached.
I’ve cried and missed Johnny a lot lately. I wish he would be here to play and love my children. Everywhere he went if there was baby nearby, Johnny was there smiling and talking to the baby. He loved kids. My son is the only boy to survive a full term pregnancy in my maternal lineage. My grandmother and aunt both lost sons late in their pregnancies. Little man is so special to my family and Johnny would have enjoyed having a boy around. Johnny would adore my babies and they would love him.
Every night, I tell Johnny goodnight and wipe away the tears. I know he’s in a better place. There’s no V.A., shock treatment or depression in Heaven. He’s walking on streets of gold, living in peace and with his heavenly Father. It doesn’t get more beautiful than Heaven. And I know he’s smiling down at me, proud of the woman I’ve become.
I miss you and love you Johnny.