For the first thirty-one years of my life, I had the incredibly rare blessing of having all four grandparents alive and very active in my life. This week, I travel to say goodbye to Grandpa C.
Grandpa C will always be larger than life to me. In every way, beginning with his impressive 6’4” stature. He and my Grandma are your classic love story, always inseparable. I stayed with them just last month, and I find it difficult to believe that I will walk into their home this week and Grandpa will not be there. Emma, Johnny, and Lily are coming with me. For once Mike’s many business trips paid off, with enough frequent flyer miles for all of us. Emma and Johnny have been asking to go see Grandma C all week. Maybe they knew something I didn’t.
Grandma and Grandpa have always been a large part of my life. We lived a mere mile away until just before my seventh birthday, and since our home abutted Grandpa’s farmland I saw him daily. He was always patient, even with my attempts to “help” often adding work to his plate. When I had cancer as a very small child, Grandma and Grandpa made their home my personal haven. While there I always felt safe, loved, and myself – no matter how confused, frustrated, or in pain I might be. They knew about sick grandchildren; they lost a granddaughter to Trisomy 18 before I was ever born. And loved her every moment of her too-brief life, sharing it with those of us who never knew her.
Grandpa C did not have an easy life. The son of a farmer, he wanted to go to college, but was kept behind to work on the farm. He sent all four of his children, and his wife, to college. All of his grandchildren have followed suit, many going on to obtain higher degrees. He battled heart problems, Parkinson’s, and Diabetes with the same gentleness and grace he used to approach everyday life. He never spoke much, but when he did you knew to listen. Frequently, he made you laugh with a gentle wit that surprised me in its simple brilliance. While we lived nearby, in my early childhood, he would come over frequently to visit. We would line up on the floor in front of him, and he would pull our feet – sending us into gales of laughter. Other times, we ran around him frantically, and he would occasionally move an inch or so and “catch” us, much to our delight. Such simple games. Such joy.
Grandpa inspired me to study hard in school and to make the most of each opportunity I received. His greatest lessons were the quietest. I will always be amazed at his gentle kindness and seemingly eternal patience; his acceptance of others for who they simply are. I never heard him complain, even as in recent years disease made daily life increasingly frustrating and painful.
Grandpa, thank you for teaching me how to live. I love you. I miss you.