So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Basements. Some are warm and inviting, others are cold and damp. Some are just plain scary.

My grandpa’s basement, though, housed one of the most unique treasures I had ever seen—an entire room dedicated to his train hobby.

My grandpa’s appreciation for trains was longstanding and certainly no secret. There were clues enough on the main floor, but one trip down the spiral staircase, with a left turn at the bottom, confirmed it. His fully functional display filled nearly the entire room. There were areas from which to stand and admire, of course, but it was almost overwhelming, especially for those experiencing it for the first time. Years of collecting coupled with an unrivaled passion turned Grandpa’s basement into a place of wonder, so much nuance and character in everything. It was truly his.

All one ever had to do was ask—ask if Grandpa would run the trains. And though difficult to prove, I think deep down he always hoped someone would, especially his grandchildren.

I remember standing in the basement as a boy and watching my grandpa at the control panel. Every switch toggled, every dial turned, every button pressed—every movement he made was executed with precision—never rushed, always deliberate. In fact, he never rushed anything. He savored every bite of every meal. He always used a shoehorn. Even his golf swing was methodical and rhythmic. It was just his way.

With just a few switches, he could bring the world of trains to life, much to the delight of those present. I remember the low hum that would fill the room, signaling the departure of a train at any moment. With an extensive network of tracks and an equally impressive number of locomotives, it was impossible to know where Grandpa would begin. He had his favorites, sure, but he would never turn down a request. The tracks themselves framed a beautiful town square, complete with mounted officers, pedestrians, automobiles, cottages, clocktowers, dogs, an ice pond, and a host of other carefully chosen accouterments.

In a word: magnificent.

There was even a green, papier-mâché mountain range looming in the distance, the perfect backdrop, which he and his father fabricated using a wire frame. And what train display would be complete without a tunnel? Grandpa’s tunnel spanned the entire length of the snowcapped mountains and was by far my favorite feature. From the moment a train would disappear, my eyes would dart to the other side, eagerly awaiting its emergence. Though I was often too enamored to take my eyes off the tunnel, I suspect Grandpa was smiling, too.

In the years leading up to my grandpa’s passing in 2014, visits to the train room were less frequent. The stairs became more difficult to navigate, but he would have made the effort if asked. I did plenty of asking as a boy. What I regret is not asking as an adult.

I will always long for one more lap through the tunnel with Grandpa at the helm, and I know my dad shares that sentiment.

And so, when my dad decided to transfer some of the pieces from Grandpa’s basement to his own, I could only smile. Now, I have the pleasure of watching my dad do for my children what Grandpa did for me. They love watching the trains, and all those kids have to do is ask. And as my dad takes his place at the controls, I see the same joy in his eyes that I saw in Grandpa’s. He even has a conductor’s hat to make the experience more authentic.

I will never be able to visit my grandpa’s train room without thinking of him. It is him. And though the train whistles have ceased, though the tracks no longer hum their electronic song, though the tunnel remains empty, if I listen long enough, I can hear it all.

I will always remember Grandpa standing in that familiar spot, his eyes scanning the world he had created.

He loved an audience, but it was always his moment, too.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:
Viral Video of Grandpa Running to Say Goodbye to Granddaughter Shows Power of a Grandparent’s Love
A Grandpa’s Impact Shines On Long After He’s Gone
Grandpa’s Leather Chair is Still Teaching Me

Patrick Danz

Patrick Danz is a follower of Christ, husband, father, educator, and sports enthusiast. He lives in Trenton, Michigan, with his wife, Nicole, and their three children: Keason, Carmella, and Alessandra. When he's not teaching, Patrick spends his time writing, golfing, grilling, and quoting lines from Groundhog Day. His work has appeared on Parent.co and Fatherly.      

To the Stay At Home Mom From Your Husband: I See You

In: Fatherhood, Marriage

To the woman who sacrificed her comfort zone—leaving her family, friends, and everything she’d ever known—to follow her new husband across the country for his job: I see you. To the wife who pours herself into making a house her home, only to have to move again: I see you. To the wife who put her career, education, and personal pursuits on hold for the sake of her family: I see you. To the mom who went through pain and misery for nine months, only to have motherhood turn out to be nothing like she’d dreamed and longed for it...

Keep Reading

I Struggled With My Son’s Diagnosis, But Found Hope in the Special Needs Community

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

When I found out I was going to be a father I was beyond excited. My wife and I had been trying to conceive for years before she got pregnant. So, when she told me I was going to be a father I wanted to shout it to the rooftops! I made sure to call my wife every day at work to make sure she ate lunch. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of her. We later found out that we were having a boy, and started to plan everything. We started to paint the baby room with blues...

Keep Reading

My Son is Growing Up, But I’ll Hold On To the Pictures Forever

In: Fatherhood

A certain part of my heart longs for these moments to never change. I look back on pictures like this one, where my oldest son tastes the salty breeze on his lips for the first time, feeling the sand underneath his toes and laughing out loud at this wholly new experience. I look back and want to freeze it, but in something more than a single picture, more solid than a flimsy memory, more lifelike in substance than what a camera can fashion. RELATED: Stay With Me a Little Longer, Daddy Because that little person who could not stand without...

Keep Reading

I Want My Sons to See How Important It is to Cover Your Wife

In: Fatherhood, Marriage

Transparent moment—I did not always do the best job of covering my wife. Early in our marriage, I was often guilty of being selfish. Our first of four childbirths had contentious moments. From the whistle I jokingly wore on our first trip to the hospital while she was in labor, to me telling her in the midst of her frustration that if we didn’t have the baby that night, she could decide if she’d go into work the next day—I’m not proud of the way I handled some of the challenges. RELATED: 5 Ways To Love Your Wife After the...

Keep Reading

Dads: Your Kids Love Doing Things Because They Get to Do Them With You

In: Fatherhood

This piece was co-written with the author’s husband, Nathan Glenn. I remember my husband taking our daughter golfing for the first time and wondering if she’d enjoy it like he did. He’d dress our kids up in Pittsburgh gear, hoping they’d love the Steelers and Pirates and Penguins as much as he does. When we imagined our someday kids, he hoped he’d have someone that would want to play catch with him and go sit on the banks for hours fishing. Now here we are over a decade into this parenting three thing, and our oldest has her own clubs...

Keep Reading

This British Dad’s Parody of Orlando Bloom’s Daily Routine Has Us Cracking Up

In: Fatherhood

Two men on the same parenting journey see things a bit differently. Read to the end for this British dad’s hilarious take on what it’s like to be a father if you’re not a famous A-list celebrity. Ever since his cinematic debut as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings film series, celebrity actor Orlando Bloom has been capturing hearts around the world. Let’s be honest, we all know why our wives were so excited when Pirates of the Caribbean hit theatres. Outside of fantasy, there’s not much that makes Mr. Bloom relatable to the average Joe. However, parenthood tends...

Keep Reading

How My Husband Used a Classic Dad Move to Teach a Lesson in Gratitude

In: Fatherhood, Marriage

“Don’t make me pull this car over!” I bet you’re picturing your dad driving the family station wagon and shouting this over his shoulder at the peak of lost sanity while on a family trip. Or maybe fast forward, and it’s your own carload of kids! In the world of classic dad moves, this one might be boss. My husband pulled this move recently. Except, this cool cat put such a beautiful, modern, mindful dad twist on it. RELATED: Here’s to the Dads Who Keep Calm When Their Kids Are Losing it First came a long full day of family...

Keep Reading

My Arms Will Always Be Open For My Baby Girl When Life Gets Hard

In: Fatherhood

I’d intended to write a sweet, good-natured post to accompany this picture. I’d intended that post to exude the love I feel for my daughter and the happiness she brings to me each time she smiles. I’d intended to convey, in some small way, just how much joy she brings to our lives each and every day. And I’d hoped that this post would serve as a pleasant trigger point for these feelings whenever I looked back upon them in my increasingly fast-approaching dotage. Until . . . Until she spent this entire day crying. And crying. And crying. Until...

Keep Reading

Embrace the Grind and 4 Other Things I Want My Son to Know

In: Faith, Fatherhood

My youngest child, our son, turned 4 years old recently. I’m amazed at how much he mimics those around him. At this stage of development, he is easily influenced. He watches me, his mother, his sisters, his preschool teacher, and his peers very closely. He repeats what he sees in movies and on TV shows—even hilariously shouting at the top of his lungs, “I’m living alone! I’m living alone!” at a family gathering after watching Home Alone over the holidays. It has me thinking. These next few years could be very important to shaping the kind of person he will...

Keep Reading

Someday My Son Won’t Need Me Anymore, But I’ll Always Be There If He Does

In: Fatherhood

At the beginning, the world splays out in front of us, wide and open and always at least a little bit terrifying. The fear never really goes away as we age, but our world certainly seems to grow smaller over time. My boy is nearly three, with yet another demarcation point in his life coming up as his birthday month looms before us. He seems older already. His personality flexes and evolves on a daily basis, as he seeks to sort out his part in this life and as he strives for self-sufficiency and independence in all facets of living. He...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections