Ernest A. Downard: My Rock Is Gone
You know those people in our lives, that ultimately shape and form us into who we are, without us even noticing it happening? The ones that without a doubt, play a role of major importance in our everyday structure as a person, even without constant contact? They’re usually the ones that you take for granted, and believe will be around forever, my grandfather, Ernest Adrian Downard Sr, was that person in my life.
Never in a million years could I bring myself to believe that somehow, this man that had been there since day one for me, a man that had landed on a beach in Normandy in 1944, days after the initial invasion, had seen some of his best friends felled by enemy forces, had then gone on to serve his country again in the Korean Conflict, and perhaps most importantly – a man that could withstand the emotional heartbreak of losing the love of his life eight years ago. I could never image him not being there anymore.
But… on the last day of February in the year 2011 my nightmare officially became a reality. We all knew that he was sick, all were attempting to prepare ourselves as best as possible, but, somehow there was no way to believe that something could take our grandpa away. Nothing.
He was the rock, the glue that held an entire family together, spanning multiple generations, infinite personalities and petty squabbles. Through it all, one thing remained constant – that smiling old man willing to say dammit for a nickel.
My fondest memories are from when he would pick me up from school, and head to the library, where we’d each pick out a book or two, and drive back to his house, where there’d always be a stocked up cupboard with the essentials for my eating habits at that time – tunafish, dill pickles and a can of Pepsi. And of course, his essentials of Bud Light and pizza.
He was a frequent fan at my football games growing up, and always my biggest fan, always my biggest inspiration. Literally the one person I could talk to who wouldn’t judge me, but who would talk with me about what was going on, why it was going on, and more importantly – how I was going to fix it.
He loved to tell stories, and jokes, albeit repeating them often, I found myself enthralled whenever the man talked. He held an aura of respect that I’ve never felt before in my life.
He was suffering, and for that reason, a part of me is happy that he’s finally in no more pain, and can rest easily. Part of me wants to believe that he held on as long as he did, because he knew what a toll his passing would take on the family as a whole. He cared far more for all of us, than he did for himself.
He was never afraid to lay down the law, and Lord Almighty help you if you touched grandma’s rosebushes, because the thorns were the least of your worries, but…he was more than a father, an uncle, and a grandfather to all of us – he was a friend, and a hero.
You truly left impressions on all of us, ones that we will carry with us and hopefully pass onto our children, so they too can have a touch of greatness within them.
Grandpa, I’m going to miss you. And, while I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to take on this world alone, I’ll give it everything I’ve got – just the way you taught me to do everything.