Graham spent the night with his Great Grandma last night. He was already talking about all the things he was going to eat. He eats a lot at home. We eat all meals together. He eats snacks. But I think we can all agree that food at a grandparent’s house is just different and better. And he knows he gets birthday cake again today. We celebrated her 85th birthday last night. And Graham ate his cake before he ate his dinner. Because that is what you do at a grandparent’s house.
On this Veteran’s Day, I am sure she is missing Grandpa Leo like I can’t even imagine. A WWII hero. And an amazing husband, dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa. It’s been five years.
Leo G. Taylor, age 88, Council Bluffs passed away November 4, 2009.
Born in Jamaica, Iowa on October 3, 1921 to Grover and Gertrude Taylor. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and spent 1941-1947 serving his country in the US Army, British Commandos, receiving a Distinguished Service Cross. Leo was a lifetime member of the American Legion and VFW and was a member at First Christian Church. Leo worked as a plumber before retiring.
He is preceded in death by his parents; 10 brothers and sisters; and son in law, Michael Ballew.
Survivors include wife of 37 years, Tracy M.; step daughters, Sharon Morrison (Gary) all of Council Bluffs, Linda Plummer (Bob) of Neosho, Mo.; 6 step grandchildren and spouses, Brad Morrison (Cindy), Brian Morrison (Tina), Daniel Morrison (Jennifer), Diane Barry (Shad), David Ballew (Lyndse), Gregory Ballew (Leslie); 11 great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Visitation with family Friday 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services Saturday 11 a.m. all at Cutler-O’Neill-Meyer-Woodring Funeral Home. Reverend David Erickson, officiant. Interment Memorial Park Cemetery with military rites tendered by South Omaha American Legion Post 331. Luncheon to follow at First Christian. Memorials to First Christian and the charity of your choice.
I was blessed to know him. And to be loved by him. I remember when he would grab my hand with his wrinkled one, kiss my cheek with his full lips, and pretend to turn off his hearing aid when people were all talking at once. And then he would wink. Dave and I actually spent the last part of our honeymoon at his grandparents’ house in Iowa. That sounds like the craziest way to end a month-long honeymoon in Colorado, but it was perfect. We went to Henry Doorly. We watched Madagascar. We ate food. Because food at a grandparents’ house is just different and better. And he told me to eat dessert first.
We had several visits in Missouri, but Grandpa was so sick when Graham came into this world. They wanted to make the 6 hour drive, but it just couldn’t happen. Photos were emailed to his step-daughter’s sister-in-law who printed them out and delivered them right away. He saw photos of Dave holding his firstborn son. And Papa Leo cried. He was so proud. The Greatest Generation was about to leave for Heaven, but crying over this new life.
His funeral was during the Veterans Day parade 5 years ago. So fitting. Graham didn’t get to meet him, but his pictures had made their way around the neighborhood. We arrived for the funeral when Graham was just a few weeks old. So tiny. And dozens of people came up to tell me that Leo was so proud of him. And that he had looked at the photos and cried. And as a woman was burying her soulmate and best friend and lover, Graham took away a bit of the sting. Grandma showed off her newest great-grandchild. Babies have a way of making these things easier.
And as Grandma Tracy makes Mickey Mouse pancakes this morning for one of her more-than-a-dozen-great-grandkids, I think the pain is still a little less. Because 5 years have passed, but after so many years together, these 5 years are a blip on a timeline. But also a chasm. “I still talk to Papa Leo.” “Dat’s silly! Do you go to Heaven? Grandpa Leo died. He’s in Heaven. You can’t talk to him!” “Oh, but I do talk to him. I talk to him everyday. And I tell him about you, you little stinker!” And they laugh and I hold back tears.
All these years later, and Graham is still a little numbing agent against the pain. And no one wants Grandpa back here suffering. That would be absurd. But we still miss him. And of the group, I miss him the least. Not intentionally, but I didn’t grow up with him. I don’t have decades or a lifetime of memories. But what I do have is enough. I still have dreams about him. I still wake up missing him and thinking about how he would have loved these kids. He welcomed me with open arms and wrinkled kisses. A girl who didn’t really know her own grandparents. And the first time I met him, he slipped me a $20 bill and lifted his electrolarynx, looking like he was about to shave off some 5 o’clock stubble with an old-fashioned electric razor, and said, “Buy something just for you. Don’t let Dave take it.” And he winked. But I saw the wad he gave Dave, so I knew there was no way Dave was taking mine. Hahahaha! And I can remember how he smelled. It was such a wonderful smell.
He gave Grandma Tracy a Bible in 1976. And she was so hesitant to use it after he passed, because she didn’t want to ruin it. They used it together for 33 years. He bought her a Bible during the bicentennial. I chuckle at how it was so unintentional, but so memorable. The Bible sat by her bed. And Grandma announced awhile back, “I don’t want anything from you kids for any holidays! But I would sure use a Bible cover.” She gives, but is not always great at receiving. Not saying she isn’t gracious, because she is. She doesn’t want people to buy her things. She bought us dinner for her 85th birthday. She gives. All the time. And all she wants is a card on her birthday. But, we surprised her with a little something more.
And Graham chose this Bible cover all by himself. From several dozen, he chose this one. I showed him several others, just to be sure. This was the one. He said over and over again, “Gwandma Twacy is gonna love it!” The significance went right over his head. Giving a Bible cover to a widow on Veteran’s Day and the 5 year anniversary of when her love was finally free to walk and talk and sing. He opened it himself. He was so proud of his gift.
He doesn’t know, but he also gave her a birthday card five years before. He was an 80th birthday gift to her. When she was experiencing pain and loss and grief, she walked in to a bedroom and found a surprise from her newest great-grandson.
And since I was nursing Graham every 45 minutes, she forced me to eat and eat. And always served me dessert first.