My Grandpa Mills was an amazing man. His own father died when he was 9 years old. He married my Grandmother when he was 21 and she was 18. He was a father of three, and a scout master to his two boys. He could play the piano and the organ. He graduated from USC with a degree in zoology. He then began teaching college courses in biology and human anatomy. He worked extra jobs so that he could provide for his family. My dad recalls that it was a struggle for his folks to pay the mortgage on the house every month, and many of their rooms didn't have any furniture. For a time Grandpa Mills worked at a liquor store and was once robbed at gunpoint. They tied him up in the back room. His story made it into the paper, although they called him Mr. Miles.
My Grandpa had a fascination with planes and flying all his life. He made friends with pilots and got a job washing planes in exchange for flying lessons. By the time I knew my Grandpa he was a certified pilot and he owned a few planes himself. I remember going on a flight with him when I was very young. It was my first experience flying.
My Grandfather used to ride his bike 5 miles a day 6 days a week to keep in shape. He was a hard worker. He was occasionally also hard on his kids, especially when my dad was a long-haired teenager, but Grandpa loved his family. And we loved him. Last Friday I attended my Grandpa's graveside service. This is when I found out that he had been in the army for a while. Some smartly dressed men came to our small family gathering and presided over the service. They gave my Grandma a flag, played taps on the trumpet, and shot some rounds to honor my Grandpa.
Grandpa had not been able to speak for some time, he had Alzheimer's disease. The last time I visited him he couldn't remember the time he gave me a medical picture book (I was about 8) because he noticed I loved to read, or the big family get-togethers, or even that he drew me some Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse replicas a few years ago. But when we sang to him, he would wink at us. And the last time we visited, he kissed my little Gwendolyn.
My Grandma said that there wasn't a thing that Grandpa wanted to do in his life that he didn't do. He is an inspiration to me. And I can't wait to tell him that when we meet again.