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June 5th, 2011

Riley Claude Prestenback

Riley Claude Prestenback,
my grandfather, and the man I consider my 'father who raised me'...

Dec 9, 1926 - Jun 5, 2009

...I found this just this morning.  I must have written in shortly after his passing but it still expresses how I feel today.  I miss you so much....

I watched you take your last breath, I whispered encouragement and 'we love yous' as your spirit fled the confines of your broken body.

I was blessed to experience your transition with you; the palpable peace that filled the room connected you and I irrevocably and, for quite some time, all I knew was peace and contentment; it stayed with me for weeks afterward - a light weight in my heart, a buoyancy in my step. I was one with the Earth and everyone in it; I had experienced the peace of dying; of transitioning from one phase of eternal life to the next. I knew we lived on; and I knew, in the end, *everything* would be all right for everyone! I carried this in my heart as one might carry a treasured object in their pocket.

Slowly, it leeched out of me; reality rushing back in to chase out any remaining hope and joy; as it does. I remember it, but I cannot touch it - it is a dim memory that fades the closer I get to it. One isn't meant to live in a state of total bliss; not until their mind is ready for such, anyway. There is a life to live, reality to deal with, pain and suffering to mourn over.

None of this means a damn thing, when all I really wanted to say was that I miss you so much and I wish you were still here and that in some ways you totally are b/c it is NOT REAL to me yet that you are gone - it can't be. Goddamit, you were supposed to live forever! I thought we'd have you for decades yet, Pa-Pa! None of us were ready for you to go, and - though it has brought us closer - it has also killed something in all of us. You meant so much to so many people, so much to each of us in a special, unique way.

You left this world as a gentleman - who always knows when to leave - just as you lived your life. My Clark Gable-ish grandfather, as I read aloud at your funeral for your eulogy, and everyone smiled and nodded. There was no one else like you in the world and there never will be; you were made of special stuff and we were so so blessed to have been a part of that, a part of your family.

You were the best grandfather a girl could ever ask for, that is for sure! You taught me so much - how to dance, how to drive a car. I used to love going to work with you to the restaurant! I remember your reading to me when I was little, your voice so soft and your intoning just perfect for whatever passage you were reading. You loved to read - a noble trait you passed on to your daughter, who passed it on to all three of her children.

The last thing you said to me was correcting me when I joked - while you lay in the hospital bed with a blue cap on and a gown - that all you needed was your Elizabeth Taylor's "Passion" and you'd be ready to hit the town and visit all the old ladies.

"No," you corrected me, seriously but in a quiet, rasped voice because you were hurting and scared, "I'm wearing Polo Black now."

Just before that, when the doctors and nurses were crowded in that little room, detailing all kinds of crap to you and things you had to sign, you glanced around the doctor and met my eyes as I stood against the wall. You made that "I have no idea wth they're talking about" face and shrugged your shoulders. A total "screw it" expression with the shrug, and I laughed at you, like you wanted, and you smiled.

I was rushing to get to the hospital when they admitted you. They'd told me they were sending you straight to surgery and I couldn't see you. Thankfully, I had about 10 mins in the room with you and the family - I remember rushing in and relief flooding me just as panic swooped in - seeing you lying in a hospital bed; you were always so hale...this couldn't be happening. Mom says you smiled when I came in the room; I didn't see, but I don't doubt it. You knew your "Gypsy" would come, didn't you? Wouldn't have missed it for the world, Pa. It was the last time any of us saw you alive and conscious. I wish I could go back to that moment, to that room. I told you I loved you a few times, I joked with you to lighten the mood and even made you laugh a few times...I don't know what I'd do different if I'd known what would happen...if I'd known you'd have a stroke on the operating table and never wake back up. I just wish I had those few moments back.

I shouldn't be posting this, b/c Mom might see it - and she can't read anything like this about you right now; not yet. She wants to read the eulogy, she says she can remember bits of it but her mind was so jumbled she wants to actually sit and read it...someday. She isn't ready. Like me, I don't think she's ready to face the fact that you simply aren't here anymore. It doesn't fit, it doesn't seem right.

This is long and rambling, and I apologize to any that choose to read it. I just let the words come out, I needed to get them out - I hope you understand. I miss him so much.

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