My grandfather, Louis Williams, passed away peacefully on Saturday August 4th. He was 86 years old. When I got the message on the morning of August 3rd that my grandfather was in hospice care and did I want to come to South Carolina to say goodbye, I didn’t even have to think twice about it.
My grandfather was an artist, a professor, a liberal, and sometimes a cad, but above all, he was the rock that supported my family. He was always there to care for his children and grandchildren whenever the need arose. I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t depend on him for encouragement, guidance and even inspiration. Of course, I had to be there for him in his last moments. And I was, thankfully. Five minutes after I arrived at his bedside, his breathing, which had been difficult and ragged, slowed. And stopped. Silently, he slipped away. And I will always cherish those last minutes I had with him, knowing he held on long enough to say farewell.
Being an artist, he exposed me to music, art, film, books, and even philosophy at a very early age. I remember him studying the I Ching, playing the piano, and painting naked ladies on giant canvases. He played tennis and ping-pong, and made spaghetti. He took me on road trips to college campuses when I was just in elementary school. He fiddled with cameras and processed film in his basement. I can remember the smell of paints, the feel of the soft brushes he used to express his art, the vibrant colors that splattered at his feet when he created abstract works. He listened to jazz in the car, he baked delicious breads, he cooked sausage and bratwurst, he had a cat named LuLu, and another one named Bif. He laughed heartily and often. He griped and often. He loved. Deeply. He was difficult and ornery. He was kind and tough, stubborn. He was laid back and determined. He was, simply, amazing.
I sat in the back of his class one day. I was a teenager and went to school across the street. I was waiting for him to finish teaching so he could drive me home. The auditorium was dark and he stood at the front as slides of artwork flicked upon a white screen behind him. I don’t remember what he was lecturing about. I don’t remember what the images were of. I just remember him. His tall, strong build. His loud, commanding voice. His square jaw and thin lips. His large hands and blue eyes. His hair that was thinning. The button down shirt he wore. And the smile on his face when he saw me afterward and said, “Hey kiddo. Ready to go home?”
Love you, Gramps. Always have. Always will. Say hello to Mom for me.