Zipped up the Turnpike and got installed in the hotel.
Next morning, our caravan got a police escort to take us to the Florida National Cemetery. I rode along with Danny and his girlfriend, Meghan. Their car was the analogue of the little kids' table. We were all held to a rigid schedule, but everything was done smartly with military precision. Many thanks to the Marine honor guard who conducted the ceremony. I teared up a little as they folded up and presented the flag to Grandma. It was a little curious that, as others fired the salute volleys, the Marine with the flag displayed and then inserted shell casings into the flag. For some reason I wondered if they were actually spent casings or not. Flag in her lap, Grandma said her last goodbyes.
I scored a ride in the limo on the way back to where Grandma and Grandpa lived. There was a little lunch, and then the celebration of his life. Rick was the first of the family to speak, and he noted that from a document they found in the safe, Grandpa had been planning this event since 1962. He didn't want to be lying in a casket. He didn't want mourners in black. He wanted nothing more than a single spray of flowers and a photograph. And the people he loved. Last and most important, it shouldn't cost more than $250. We may have fudged that last part. But prices have changed since 1962.
Dad spoke as well. Barb didn't feel up to it. I didn't really feel up to it either, but I rose to speak. I wanted to honor Grandpa's peculiar sense of humor. He had a particular brand of grandpa humor. Deadpan, so you might not notice it. If you were lucky, he would wink to let you know he was pulling your leg. To be honest, he often would needle you with his humor. A little sarcastic, a little acerbic, a little caustic. Maybe more than a little. I had to explain to Veratrine, that he teased her not because he didn't like her, but because he did.
That was as far as I got before I got choked up. I wish I'd been able to continue to say, "After all, when I was just knee high to a grasshopper, this is the man who ordered frogs' legs and told me that he was eating Kermit. Who does that to a child? Well, Grandpa did. And I'll miss his humor, and I'll miss him."
I'm grateful to Uncle Rick, who whispered 'Good job' or something of the sort to me as I returned to my seat.
After the formal part, there was much talking and reminiscing. Here's Grandma with Paul Fate, who went to high school with Grandma and Grandpa.
Afterwards, we visited with Grandma for a while. At one point, I was bidden to examine some of Grandpa's jewelry and to take a few pieces. I found a pair of cufflinks that were just handsome. I also picked a pin commemorating Grandpa's status as a Life Member of the NRA. I may not be a huge fan of the organization as it is now, but the NRA of 2013 is different from the NRA of 19-- when Grandpa joined it. Grandpa was a coach of a high school shooting team -- back in the days when high school students could take their rifles to school with them. And finally, recognizing that I probably don't have the time left to achieve this myself, I also picked out a pin honoring Grandpa's 65 years as a Mason.
In the evening, the family went to dinner at an Italian place. Dad raised a toast to Grandpa and the family, and the meal was great. I had a very good 'goodbye' with Grandma at the end. Although I could have rushed over in the morning to see her the next day, I think that was the right way to leave things. I saw some of the other family at breakfast, and then drove back to Orlando for my, ultimately successful, ordeal to get back home.