Monday, November 11, 2013

Dr. William Ralph Behm [Grandpa] 1931-2013

He was the single most positive influence in my educational career. He was the man who put the book in my hand and told me to read. He was the poor child, living in a tiny apartment with a giant family, who made his way to be #1 in his class at Northwestern University. He was the smartest man I knew but also the most loving. He was not just an educator, doctor, husband, brother, or father. He was Grandpa. 
Throughout his entire life [as I knew him] he was a family man. He never went anywhere without my Grandma and they had the most amazing marriage I had ever seen. They entertained their friends with lavish dinner parties together, went antiquing together, traveled to Florida for the Winter together, and always had an amazing time. They were always laughing. They loved family time. 
When my Grandpa decided it was time to retire from the incredibly successful Orthodontia practice he built, my grandparents decided to open an antique store, to keep his hobby alive. He was always doing things he loved. He played dominoes, read stories, told jokes, ate bialy bread with disgusting fake butter, and kept lists. He was the most organized human being I think there ever was. 
My Grandpa would call me whenever something happened that he wanted me to know about. Whether it was a dog show on television that was showing the same breed as Charli, or a funny comic he saw in the newspaper that he just had to tell us about, or just to say hello and make sure school was going okay. He loved to talk about school. He was on the "fast-track" at his primary school and when I got into the "merit" program at the same age, he knew that my future was as bright as his was. I wish he was here to help me through the hellish college application process. 
My Grandpa was all about making the most out of life. When my Grandma died a couple years ago, he was so sad for a couple months but he then came to realize that my Grandma would have hated the sad man he became. Grandpa started dating Natalie, a friend from primary school, and he was rejuvenated. They traveled, saw shows, and took adorable tours of Chicago as if they were tourists [even if they both had lived there since birth]. They were supposed to get married. They were supposed to go to Paris. They were supposed to go to the fanciest New Year's Eve party in the city of Chicago. 
But my Grandpa had a stroke. A disabling stroke that left the entire right side of his body paralyzed, his speech impaired, and his love for life completely obliterated. He no longer laughed, but repeatedly threw around his lame arm in anger. His only joy was seeing us, but it made my mom sad to see him the way he was, so we visited less and less frequently. He was so upset to have his upswing cut short. He lived in this anger for two years. Until Saturday. He was set free from his suffering. He was set free to see his wife. He was set free to walk and speak and enjoy life again. I generally cringe at euphemisms about death, but I truly do see it as him being set free from his anger and suffering. He did not "pass away" or "move on". His heart stopped and his body shut down and he died at 6:30 am. Right on time. He was never late for anything. 

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