So here I am sitting in bed thinking about my passing grandfather. My mind is swimming in thoughts of his and my time together. For some reason when someone passes I begin putting together what I’d say at the pulpit. I’d maybe start with a joke or something meaningful to set the tone. Something about how life is a journey and it’s best traveled with important people. I don’t mean you have to see the world with the mayor, but people who hold up. He and grandma seemed to be in that van driving across the country every so often. I’m happy to think that maybe grandpa can go back to traveling with his wonderful wife.

I had my trip with those two. The memories are like a flipbook – a blur of movement, but if your finger sticks long enough you get a clear picture. I remember them picking me up and my mother’s “please don’t terrorize these people” look on her face. My “on board” bag stuffed with activities that I became bored with in the first 3 hours of a cross-country trek. There were night stays in dumpy motels and breakfasts at “Flying J” and lunch consisted of canned franks or meat to be spread on crackers. That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate spending that time with them. I finally, truly saw the sharp beauty of the Rocky Mountains. We visited an imprisoned family member and a beef jerky factory. And who could forget how I took my first whizz along the highway, with the doors open wide within earshot of my grandmother sitting passenger side, all while in the shadows of the perfect rock sculptures of the Arizona desert. It wasn’t a trip about finding more about them, but more about finding myself with them.

See, my grandfather has a hard shell. Let me tell, just a quick story, as an example. One year, our family got together at a cabin in Colorado where the kids were left to bother the poor older folks, all while the older kids and parents went off into the rocky nowhere. I was an obnoxious cuss, and he wasn’t interested in getting dealt into my game, but one morning the two of us got the better of each other. My grandfather and I were at a small kitchen counter where I proceed to grill him on the utensils contained in a large ceramic jar. I machine-gunned off:”What’s that?” He tried to stammer an answer fit for an 8-year-old, but before he could get two words together, I moved on to the next item in question. This line happened a handful of times, each of us parlaying. That was until I asked him about the last one. I finished my question, and he looked at it then me and said straight-faced:”Put your hand down.” Well, this wasn’t like his other answers, he certainly sparked my curiosity. “Go ahead,” he invited “put it down and I’ll show you what it does.” I smiled at the wooden block, then at him and placed my hand palm side down on the table. He pulled it out of the jar and raised it and paused – either in his hesitation or mine – and brought the meat tenderizer down onto the back of my hand. Let’s say for the sake of storytelling, that I stopped asking him questions for the rest of the trip.

But that is the same man who shook me out of many a Nintendo stupor to watch desert night flowers bloom. The same guy who woke me up early to unfold and hang the American flag that he meticulously cared for in their front yard. This was the same guy who said “Howdy partner” in the same tone no matter my age. He was the same guy who invited me to have milk and Oreos every single night I stayed with them, especially if that day was contentious. To him, everything was resolved at that table. He wasn’t a stubborn old man, and I wasn’t an annoying young kid. We were two fellas having cookies.

And that’s what I’d do if I had my “one more chance,” to be a fella at that dinner table, having cookies.

1 Comment
  1. Mom says:

    He would have loved this story. He was always so proud of you! Thank you for making me smile and remember him through your eyes!

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Goodbye Gramps

Posted on

September 19th, 2016