“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Today, my grandpa and grandma are taking another step in what my grandpa calls “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
They’re leaving the town my grandma has lived in for over 80 years. They’re leaving the town they’ve lived in as a family for 65 years. They’re leaving the house my grandpa built over 30 years ago with his two hands. These two hands.
Dementia is robbing my grandma of her brain and twisting her personality, the same way it did her mother before her. At 91 years old, my grandpa cannot sustain her care and needs help from one of their children. His daughter, my aunt, and her family will be their primary care-agents. But they live near Jackson, Mississippi. So the move begins today.
My parents and brother returned to Roswell, New Mexico last month to help prepare my grandparents home and belongings for this unprecedented transition. I wasn’t able to make the trip, but because of the advantages of a digital age, I was a part of that experience.
As I watched my brother post photos on Instagram and comments on Twitter, as he sent picture and video messages, I was in awe of all that I was just learning about my family. I was filled with unprecedented gratitude for my place as a Savage, a member of this great family.
And I had a thought…
I don’t think they make men these days like they did when my grandpa was born.
Willis Savage was born in January 1921 in Oklahoma. One of 13 children, he helped his father farm. When I was younger, my grandpa told us stories about how he helped his dad bury family and friends, as they died from the flu epidemic sweeping the country. My grandpa would go on to survive that scary time, only to go on to endure the stock market crash and the Great Depression like millions others.
He fought in World War 2. Last month, he told my brother the story of how he watched the boats cross the English Channel on D-Day as Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. He would storm those beaches in a wave later that day. My grandpa would one day be awarded the Silver Star. Though wearing that “bath tub on his head” (his loving term for his helmet) made him bald by age 25, my grandpa made it through the war without major injury.
As a reminder of his valiant fight, my brother and I are today the honored owners of one of his dog tags. I now consider it one of my most treasured possessions.
My grandpa has worked every day of his life – before the War and every day since. His ownership in Savage Brothers Electric for parts of four decades, the repair work that led to several electrocutions, an accident that produced multiple skin grafts, and the broken pinky that never set – I will never forget his legacy of commitment, dedication and hard work. I will never forget the fact that whatever was broken in our home when he came to visit was fixed by the time he left.
(I will never forget his workshop, which seemed like a magical wonderland to me as a small child.)
Today as I think of the challenges ahead of me, the decisions that intimidate me, the list of action items I wonder if and when I will ever complete, the fatigue I feel, I’m thinking of the name I bear. The name my grandpa passed on to me.
He is now doing the hardest thing he’s ever done. Making a long goodbye to his wife who will have fewer and fewer good days where she remembers him and their 65 years together. Making a new start in a new town for the last season of their lives. Finding work and meaning amidst a new place and new people.
Today, I’m claiming my name as a Savage and all that it means. I’m thinking and praying for my grandparents and this difficult moment. I’m committing to the work in front of me. I’m building on my grandpa’s legacy and writing a life that I hope my grandchildren admire the way I admire my grandpa’s life.
I love my family.
(I want to say thanks to my brother, Keith, for the incredible photos he took while he was with my grandparents last month. You can check his website or his Facebook page – Keith A Savage Photography. Bro, I’m proud to carry the Savage name on with you!)