Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Today, the world let slip one of the most interesting men I have ever met. Around dinner time, Frank R Warta (my mother's father) left the realm of the living.
I received a call from my mom, who in turn sent my aunt on leave from the Academy to go and bear witness to the event. She spoke through the choke of tears, saying that he died moments after having his picture taken by my aunt.
After we said our "I love you's" and "goodbyes", my mom texted me that picture. He looked very peaceful, like the war against time, stubbornness and his own ailments had come to an end. His rosary around his neck, he had always been a good Catholic (so much so that it often steered many of his offspring away from the denomination) and had always dragged me to mass at a young age so that I could watch him sing, his loud bass voice drowning out everyone else. You couldn't help but smile with amusement when this happened.
Everything I knew about farming, trains, cows and the Civil War, I learned from him. We used to walk across rows of plants, vegetables and what seemed at the time (remember, I was very small) to be endless fields of everything. I would ride his giant Saint Bernards like horses, and accompany him to battlefields all over Tennessee and Kentucky. I got my first taste of liquor from him- I remember we were watching Rambo II, and I was preoccupied with a Lego set. He handed me his glass of brandy, put it to my lips and I slept amazingly well that night. I still remember that booming laugh every time I would cough after drinking.
He loved farm equipment. He collected scale models of tractors and olde-time milk trucks. He reeked of Old Spice. He was not above using the belt.
However, I remember him in better ways than that. You see, my family is quite large and spread out. You could say we form like a dandelion then scatter into the wind when the time comes. It's no surprise I have such a restless nature- my mom was one of 13 kids, constantly on the move. I have yet to meet all of my aunts and uncles, cousins and such.
With a family this big, the attrition rate can be rather high. People come and go, marry and divorce, live and die. You don't love them any less than any other family. If anything, I think we celebrate our lives a little more than most because we are so spread out. It takes a strong bond to be so close, yet so far apart. We're the kind of family that may skip a funeral, but won't miss a birth. Life begins at zero hour, and we love it. When you die, well.. your life isn't in that body anymore. It would be like burying your goldfish bowl when your fish died. The body is just a vessel, and the spirit of the ones we love reside in all of us.
I will miss you, Pa. You were always one of the most interesting and restless people I have ever had the honor of being mentored by. Seriously, if this guy goes to heaven, he's going to sell beachfront property in hell. If he has to hang out in purgatory for a bit, he'll probably work out a couple business ventures with the people waiting alongside him. He was just that good.
Someday, I hope to be a "Pa", too. Until then, I will just keep you alive, towering beside me in a tobacco field in Masonville, Kentucky.