On the first day of this new year, my sweet Papa passed away. You may remember that I wrote about him here, or maybe you’ve just heard me tell stories about him, or maybe you’ve had the wonderful privilege of spending time with him yourself. Regardless, he was one of my very favorites, and while I know that he lived a long, lovely, generous life, I can’t help but feel a sort of shifting.
I was able to see him, just last week, as Rob and I drove to west Texas to spend Christmas with him and the rest of my family. He’d aged a tremendous amount since the last time we visited, and due to his body doing what a body does in old age, he spent his final Christmas in a hospital bed. Over and over again, he reminded us how blessed he was and how much he loved his family. He still waxed poetic about what meals he was eating, and what meals he was looking forward to, and what meals he had already eaten; and when he finally was able to come back home to his chair and TV, he requested biscuits and sausage gravy because, as they say, you only live once.
When the news came in that he had passed, I wasn’t entirely surprised. He was ninety-four, after all, and I knew his health was rapidly declining. And while I’m, of course, incredibly sad, I think what has shaken me the most is a feeling that seems something parallel to being left behind. You see, I don’t have any grandparents left. My papa was the final remaining member of his generation in my family. With his passing comes a profound sense of lost – not just of his life and what he meant to me, but also of a very sweet season of my own life, filled with my precious grandparents’ houses and visits and surprises and hugs. I feel very lucky to have had them for as long as I did, and yet, I already miss the luxury of grandma and grandpas, mamas and papas.
We won’t have much of a reason to travel back to Plainview now. After so many years of making the trip to the small, dusty town, it’s strange to think that there isn’t anything left to tie us to it. Life has moved us all forward, and with Papa’s death, I can’t imagine that we’ll take the detour towards west Texas too often. In a few days, we’ll all make the trek one more time, and we’ll say our quiet goodbyes. The grandchildren will say goodbye to our sweet summer memories of the local small town country club pool, and building forts in the living room, and being spoiled rotten in a million small ways, and our parents, well, they will say goodbye to their father and to all that he was, in a million big ways. And then we will scatter, of course, like families do- hearts tied together but lives that require the miles in between to loom large. Without our grandparents, we will have to forge new anchors. And while it is the natural way of things, this kind of shifting, it still feels like a weighty kind of responsibility- the children and the grandchildren, now the carriers of the torch.
Angus Courtney Ott, Jr. - the best kind of name for the best kind of man (but I may be biased.) What a life you lived and what courage you carried. May we do your story justice, Papa, and may what you gave be just the beginning of what will be given.