My grandfather died yesterday. He was in his late 80’s and had lived a good life, so it’s not tragic or anything…but sad nonetheless. This is especially true for my grandma who’s been with him day in and day out since he got home from WWII.
He was an incredible man, in a very classic way for that generation. Teacher, pastor, high level member of the Lion’s club in his area, golfer. He was very traditional, having come from a long line of Lutheran religious men (we’re very German, as it turns out).
The most amazing thing was how perfect he was as a grandfather. He just did everything right. He taught my father how to build a house. How to garden. How to raise children. How to cook. How to work on cars. Everything.
They lived in the foothills to the Sierra Nevada mountains, which to us in the Bay Area was just “the mountains”. Arnold, to be exact. The place was just perfect, like the movies. We spent Christmases and Easters there. It was always perfect. TONS of food, little snacks always lying around, the smells of pine and candles and such. The sounds of church organs (grandma played the organ).
Grandpa was the coolest. He showed me computers. He gave me my first one, actually — a Commodore 64. I used to play Dungeon on it. It was one of the cassette deals. And even then he was regretting that he wouldn’t get to see what all technology had to offer. It’s ironic, though…I exchanged more email with him into his 80’s than most of my other family members. He was on top of things. Reinstalling his own system, troubleshooting software, etc. All up until just recently when he broke his hip.
Anyway, when we’d come visit he’d always be able to do whatever we were wanting. My most cherished memory is that of a slignshot. I was obsessed with them at this particular moment (I was probably 12 or 15 or so), and I REALLY wanted one. Well, grandpa goes down into his shop. And when I say shop, I mean like Tim Taylor. Real deal. He grabs a saw and heads out into the woods with me.
We come to a certain mosquite tree way out in the boonies that has the perfect “Y” shape on a particular branch. He cuts it down and takes the part we need, along with most of the rest of it to burn in the fire place. We get back to the shop and he proceeds to MAKE me a slingshot, FROM SCRATCH.
He notches the wood, gets some high-quality rubber strips for the main bands, and busts out a sheet of serious, thick leather. He cuts a small, rectangular piece out, puts the slots in it, and then somehow attaches the bands to it. In like half an hour I have a very serious, homeade slingshot. He made some offhand modest comment about it not coming out so bad and sent me into the woods to do what grandsons do. I swear to you it was awesome.
Then there was the homeade ice cream. And the sledding. He’d make these strips in the snow during winter for us to race down. Give us mittens, provide the sleds and snow disks — everything.
And the fishing. He had like 15 poles, and he didn’t fish. They were there just for us kids. That was their only purpose. He’d rig us up good. Food, sunblock, extra clothes, bait, all the tackle..and a ride to the local lake.
And he would fall asleep in his chair. Always. So classic. He’d constantly be awoken by grandma telling him to do something, or if one of us would come ask something. One moment he’d be smiling and answering or doing or helping, and the next minute you’d look over and see him peacefully napping. And it’d be so funny when he’d be getting harped on by grandma. He’d just look at us like, “Uh oh…” and he’d smile a knowing little smile and either go back to napping or get up and take care of it.
He was just perfect. I don’t mind that he’s gone…that’s natural…but I want people to know how great he was. How kind he was. And that he’ll be missed.