On February 13, 2013 Alton Green took his last breath and passed from this life to the next. It was not a total shock to all of us, but it happened way faster then anyone intended. As most of you remember June, his wife, passed away late October. Since her passing Grandad (Alton) has declined at a steady rate. In fact, most say that when we buried June back in October, we also buried a big part of Alton. It is true. Alton has not been the same since October. Every time I saw him he looked sad, tired, and incomplete. It was hard to see, no one likes to watch someone they love in pain. We have spent the last several days in San Angelo, Texas with family remembering, laughing, crying, and celebrating a life lived well by Alton Green.
It is no secret that I considered and treated Steve's grandparents just like they were my grandparents, and they treated me like a granddaughter. I was never an in-law to them - they always called me their granddaughter. I loved that, I wanted that, I always felt special because of that claim. The above picture is from Steve's college graduation in 2003. Steve and I had been dating a little of 3 months. I love Grandad's smile in this picture. I love that we are looking at each other. I am going to miss talking with him. He was one of the many reasons I looked forward to family gatherings.
Steve and I lived in Abilene for four years as a dating/engaged/married couple. In those four years we spent countless hours going to football games in Abilene and Roscoe with June and Alton. Alton was on the undefeated ACU football team in 1950. He loved talking about that accomplishment and I loved hearing about it. He played high school ball for Roscoe. It was so cool to go back with him to Roscoe and meet his old football friends and watch small town Texas football.
Because I was one of their 'own' grandchildren they came to all my big events too. The above picture was taken at my college graduation in 2004. When Steve and I were dating and newly married, we traveled up to Colorado each summer to spend time with them fishing and camping and touring the Southern part of Colorado. For 35 years they spent every summer in a trailer in the mountains of Colorado. I cherish those memories with them. Alton taught me to fish, taught me how to gut a fish, taught me about loving the outdoors and how to breathe in the mountains.
I actually first met Alton on the Spring of 1999. I was 16 and on the Midland High track team. He was a judge at the San Angelo Relays and my team had shown up in very inappropriate uniforms. It did not take long for him to inform my coach we were wearing uniforms violating UIL rules, and much to my coach's dismay, we changed. Then fast forward to 2003 and I am meeting Steve's grandparents for the first time. We had been dating a whole 2 weeks and I am trying to make a good impression. Imagine my embarrassment when Grandad discovered I was on the Midland High track team the same year he got all those girls in trouble for their uniforms. I turned bright red and start sweating. He smiled and laughed hard. Grandad loved telling that story and I loved hearing him tell it. It was a memory he and I shared, and it made me feel special when he would share it with others.
I shared many, many memories with Grandad. I ate countless meals around his table in San Angelo. Steve and Grandad had a special relationship, and I always loved seeing them together. They could talk for hours. I loved watching to two of them together. When you talked with Grandad, he usually held your hand, especially in the last couple years of his life. I loved his hands. Big and strong and worn from years of hard work. His hands had a way for making you feel safe and loved all at the same time.
One of the last important memories I shared with Grandad was the day we told our families that Steve and I were expecting our first baby. It was at lunch in Abilene after Steve's masters graduation. After Steve had made the announcement, there was much crying and hugging and celebrating. As I was making my way around the table I finally made it to Grandad and he was standing there with arms wide open, and big tears ran down his old, worn face. As he hugged me he kept saying how happy he was not only for Steve and I, but also for himself and adding another great-grandchild to the family. It was a special moment I will treasure forever.
The above picture was taken the last time Steve and I were with June and Alton in San Angelo in Sept. 2012. When one thinks of June, they also think of Alton - and vice versa. They shared a love story that makes most envious. They loved one another deeply and shared a life well-lived together. After this picture was taken, I only saw Grandad two more times- once at June's funeral and the other at Kelly's wedding in December. My last memory of him is sitting across from him at the rehearsal dinner. We laughed and joked and shared a meal together. I like that is my last memory of him. It suits us well.
And so we said goodbye this Saturday to a great, great man. I had the complete honor of speaking a few words at the funeral. It was a good funeral and burial, much like June's, which was only just a few short months ago. Alton was ready, there was no doubt about that. He missed June, he had lived a good life, and he was ready for his eternal reward. Both Alton and June lived a good, good life. They gave all they had to their family and church. They loved others deeply and openly. And they loved God with all their hearts. It was evident the way both lived their lives that they knew there was something better waiting on the other side. I think the hard part for us now is the grieving process. We have not completed our grieving for June and now we have the loss of Grandad on top of us now. It feels like waves of grief just keep washing over us. I know this time with pass but it is heavy and hard right now.
So for now, it feels good to remember and tell stories and think about Grandad. He was a great, great man and I feel honored to have had the chance to have him in my life the last 10 years.