I got the call from my mom on Friday, February 16th that my grandpa was being put on hospice care. As many of you know, I’m currently halfway through a one-year master’s program out in Germany, so I couldn’t be physically father away from Texas. But that didn’t stop me from booking a flight for the following weekend to see him. There were 12 days between when I got the call and when I landed in Texas. 12. Despite the quick turnaround, grandpa deteriorated faster than any of us thought possible, and I spent those 12 days using my study breaks to send recordings for grandma to play for him reminding him that I loved and I missed him and that I would be there soon to see him if he could just hold on. And you know what? He did. He knew I was coming. He listened to me – though to be honest I think he was listening to grandma, he never could say no to her. Regardless of who he was listening to, he loved me enough to wait until I got to see him one last time and say goodbye. He passed away one hour after I arrived in Texas. Nothing I ever could have said would have been enough, but I did my best to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me, and I like to think he understood.
Now listen, if you knew Wayne Stout, you know he was kind of an ass. He was as sarcastic as they come, couldn’t pronounce the Spanish highway exit he lived off of (Bosque) to save his life – and had zero interest in learning how -, and had a temper shorter than most. But he was also one of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever been lucky enough to know, let alone be raised by. He gave me my first beer when I was two. He taught me how to shoot when I was three – luckily not while I was drinking one of those beers he’d given me -, and how to fish by the time I was four. He made me watch my first scary movie when I was maybe seven after I flew out to see him from California and mom wasn’t there to tell him no. Granted, it was Jurassic Park, so maybe not all that scary, but 7-year-old me begs to differ. When I was a kid, he would chase us around the house with “The Claw” – which was almost as scary as those movies –, take me on lawn mower rides that rivaled the best roller coasters around, and make me watch more old Western films than I even knew existed at volumes that probably caused serious damage to my eardrums. He called me his “best girl forever,” a title that has grown in significance for me with age as I realize that he truly meant it.
As I got older the scary movies got scarier, the sarcasm got quicker and wittier, and the love he showed my mom, sisters, grandmother and I only became more abundantly clear. This man was smart, let me tell ya. You wouldn’t know it to look at him maybe (though you wouldn’t know it by lookin’ at me either) but he was quick with a joke and even quicker to make you smile. And boy did he have a beautiful smile himself. It was the kind of smile that made you want to smile back, even if you didn’t have a reason to. “Best girl forever” was often replaced by my new moniker “mighty cake lady” due to his love for the Texas sheath cake grandma and I made him when I came back for visits, but it was equally endearing.
In fact, me getting my masters was one of the things grandpa was proudest of me for. He was there for my college graduation, and the money I received from selling the truck he and grandma gave me after that graduation was what I used to finance this masters program. He didn’t even want me to get a job while I studied (but I did) because he wanted me to focus solely on my studies. And he was so excited that I was studying in Germany, somewhere he’d spent time during his years in the service and whose culture and people he’d fallen in love with in his short time there. We would have chats about the delicious bread and beer, the kind and hospitable people, and the breathtaking castles and cathedrals. His clear love for a country so foreign to his own inspired me to fall in love with my new home even more every time we spoke, and I must have invited him to come visit me about a hundred times. His pride in my academic career will be what carries me through to the end of this program, and I know that he’ll be cheering me on for every exam and every paper, the voice in my head telling me to quit procrastinating and get my life together – which I won’t, probably mostly just to spite him.
As many of you know, and even more of you probably feel the same, grandpa loved his guns. And boy oh boy did he have loads of ‘em. I once made the mistake of asking grandpa what he was so afraid of that he needed so many damn guns. His response? "Well, not a damn thing now." Terrifying, sure, but I always knew whose house I'd run to in the event of an apocalypse.
I loved that man with all my heart. He helped raise me. He taught me what it meant to stand up for what you believe in, the importance and value of education, and the absolute necessity to show the people you love that you love them. Not just with your words, but with your actions. My grandparents were married for fifty years and not a day went by that grandpa didn’t tell grandma how much he loved her or how beautiful she was or what he meant to her. She’d say (mostly jokingly, I think) that she was leaving him and he’d say "Alright well then let’s go, I’m comin’ with you." And I think that is what I take most from my grandfather’s life. If I carry nothing else with me of the myriad of lessons he taught me, it is the importance of making your loved ones abundantly clear on the fact that you think they’re the best damn thing since sliced bread. He loved with such an unconditional fierceness, and if I ever meet someone who loves me even half as much as he loved my grandma, I think I'll be doin' pretty well.
My grandfather was proud of a lot of things in his life, but I truly believe he was most proud of being a good husband to his wife, a good father to his daughter, and – in my completely unbiased opinion – he was proudest of being our grandpa.
PSA: He wouldn't have cared so much whether I posted about him on here, he was never big into social media and never gave a damn what anyone thought of him - a trait I'm proud to have inherited - but I wanted to memorialize him the best way I know how: with my words. This doesn't do him justice, but at least it's a start.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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