I write this crying with a smile as I turn back time, exploring and revisiting archived memories of time spent with you. So many good ones… Like, when we’d sit together on the patio and you would read me the funnies in the newspaper, but only the ones with colored ink because I liked those best. I can still feel the warmth of crawling into that big ‘ol bed with you and grandma during sleepovers while the Late Night Show ran. Remember the time I convinced you to let me cut your hair? How proud I was of a job well done! Nicely trimmed and clean-cut. Grandma had another (probably more accurate) opinion of my job. This opinion sent grandpa to the barber shop the next day to “fix” my job well done. And how many hours did you push me on that old tire swing attached to that big strong leafy-green tree in the back yard?
One of my (and the five other grandchildren’s) very favorite memories with you and grandma is our traditional Christmas shopping outing. You and grandma would drive the T-Bone conversion van, making its rounds to pick all of us grandkids up for the day’s grand adventure. We’d all pile in and make our way to the mall… We’d scour the aisles in search for the perfect GI Joe, tractor or outfit. Once our Christmas gift was chosen and purchased, we would giddily make our way to Patty’s Diner for lunch. We’d get the largest corner booth and order a mess of hamburgers, French fries, malts and shakes. You could guarantee there’d be at least one shake ALL over the table before our loud, busy lunch came to an end.
We grandkids have YOU to thank for making us into such skilled drivers. Before we were tall enough to reach the petals, you would sit us on your lap in the driver’s seat of that lil red truck. We’d cruise around Fairfield, Deweese, and winding country roads. You instructed us as we went… We were allowed 3 “mess-ups” before our driving lesson was over for the day. Miraculously, that little red pick-up survived years of driving lessons and is still parked in your garage.
So many memories are attached to food – the beefy jerky, tea cup omelettes, s’mores over the fireplace, ice cream with saltine crackers, root beer floats for bedtime snacks. And the pancakes, oh, the pancakes! My love for those warm, fluffy cakes began with you, grandpa. During sleepovers we would gather ‘round the griddle in our pajamas, morning breath, and mouthfuls of requests – A heart! A Barbie! A guitar! A John Deere tractor! There was nothing that you, our grandpa pancake artist, could not create out of that magical batter. And for what MAY have lacked in form, our little imaginations could make up for. How delicious those specialty-made pancakes were! Mmm.
Our latest thing, Grandpa, was paddle-boating together outside your back door on Lake Hastings. We’d put the top up to offer shade from the summer sun, then we’d paddle and paddle and paddle. A fish would jump, a bird would dive, a duck would waddle, children would splash with laughter. And we’d paddle, enjoying the scene and the company of the other.
I could keep writing all morning telling stories and recounting precious memories. One of the reasons we grandkids have been able to do this in the past and today is because of your and grandma’s faithful presence in our lives—for investing in us, supporting us and teaching us. You taught us that it IS possible to love ONE person with a heart full of commitment and devotion for years upon years (63 years to be exact). You have shown us the Christ-like fruit that comes forth by putting the other first in your marriage. And now, we, in our young marriages, can stand on your shoulders and follow your example.
In a 6th grade classroom in Fairfield, little Dink and little Darlene and their classmates were asked to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. Grandma went first and said, “I want to be a farmer’s wife.” A few students later you, grandpa, said, “And I wanna be her farmer.” Now, 70+ years later, the sign that hangs in your bedroom reads: All Because Two People Fell in Love. Any two people can fall in love, but you kept choosing love over and over and over again. You leave behind a legacy of love to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as we’ve learned to love well because you loved well, to love faithfully because you loved faithfully, to love enduringly because you loved enduringly.
Even though we feel the loss deeply, our hearts are filled with THANKS for the gift of such a special grandpa, for sacred life lessons gleaned from you both, and for wonderful memories we can never lose.
Grandpa, we will miss your fun & ornery personality; we will miss your smile & laugh; we will miss your squeezes. We’re already missing you very, very much.