My maternal grandfather, John Baskette, a Pearl Harbor survivor, is in the hospital. He can't breathe on his own and evidently has acid in his blood. He had signs of pneumonia and things are not looking particularly good. He lives in Branson, Mo., and is 83 years old, nearly 84. His birthday is April 6. I forgot how old he was until I tracked down his bio he wrote for the Pearl Harbor association. My grandfather was something of a hero, in my mind at least.
Growing up, when we lived in Joplin, Mo., in the late 80s and early 90s, we visited Branson to go to Silver Dollar City and see my grandparents several times a year. I participated in my aunt Renee's wedding in the late 80s, but after that, I didn't see any of my aunts or uncles up until now. There were never birthday cards or greetings from Barry or Doug, let alone Renee or the other two aunts whose names escape me right now. They weren't family. My grandparents were something strange to me, and after I turned 10 or so, they sort of lost interest in us, my family. In recent years, I would send holiday cards and once I sent a father's day card to Grandpa Baskette, which recieved a warm, lengthy letter back from him. Typed on an old-school typewriter on his letterhead. Filling me in on his and grandma's ailments. He always signed, though, in his scribbly, rigid handwriting, "Grandpa Baskette."
My connection to Grandpa Baskette is much larger than that to Grandma Baskette, who seemed to make my mom's life a living hell when she was growing up. Grandpa let me interview him when I was in the 6th grade for a project on veterans for a USO-themed gigantic project for my differentiated program. I dressed in my dad's old navy getup and portrayed my grandfather, telling his story of running across the green as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I had photographs of his dozens of honors, including the Purple Heart. His story inspired me, making me fascinated with history.
I wish I knew them better. I wish they'd cared a little more about us. I resent them for the supposed things they put mom through -- it's a domino effect, you know.
But I know that with grandpa passes, I'll lose a little something. And for the first time, I will say kaddish for someone close to me. It won't be the last, of course. There are people who flip and flop about saying kaddish for a nonJewish relative, but in my world, I can't NOT say kaddish. It's strength and hope in a prayer.
All I ask from the Web community, of course, is to keep my family in your prayers. This situation is part of something much, much bigger going on in the sphere of Chaviva. Bigger than any of you likely will know. We'll say it's like standing comfortably inside an eggshell, while the eggshell cracks and breaks around you. You see it, but you can't do anything about it. It's merely cracking and crumbling, and you know that you've done all you can. You have to just stop, watch, and hope it crumbles gracefully to the ground.
Luckily, I'm no longer standing alone.