My Granddad is 91. He is still with us, in fact, I'm lucky enough to still have all four of my grandparents on this earth. I've never lost anyone close to me and I don't really know what to expect. Death is foreign to me in my reality. I have a bad feeling once someone I care about passes, a firestorm is going to be unleashed on me. So I've decided to write about my grandparents, one by one, while they are still here. This way I can think with a clear head and remember all the things I want or need to remember about them. Something that maybe they can read now so they can know just how big a part of my life they all were. Time is not on anyone's side, no one lives forever, so I feel the need to do this now. Diplomatically, I will start with the oldest and work my way down.
His hands are large, massive actually. It was always the first thing I noticed. As a little girl my hand was literally swallowed up by his. He has the hands of someone who is no stranger to hard work. He grew up on a farm in Montana, the only boy amongst a family of girls, other than his father. He lived the typical farm life, up with the sun to do chores that we would consider hard labor today. But if you were to ask him how he felt about it, he would tell you stories of fond memories and adventures that would make Tom Sawyer green. From there he joined the Army like so many men did in those days and served in WWI. After the Army he married my grandmother, started having children and lived the simple life that followed. He worked for a refinery for over 30 years. He worked with his hands, that's what he was born to do, it's what those hands were made for. That's not to say he isn't smart as a whip though. The man is a walking encyclopedia spouting facts and events like Old Faithful (which he took us to see when we were kids). He always had a little informational tidbit to offer no matter what we were talking about. Unless we were talking about video games, then he pretty much tuned us out :). I always told him he should have been a contestant on Jeopardy...he would have broken the record!
My brother and I would go out to their house in Oregon, where they retired, every summer. I loved it. Well, I loved it until I got to be a teenager, then I wanted to have the typical summer with my friends. However, I wouldn't trade those summers in Oregon for anything. I have so many fond memories of helping to fix dinner, watching Granddad make his sourdough bread (he was an avid and amazing baker), picking blackberries and then taking them to Aunt Sarah's house (his sister) where she would make pies out of them. They took us to Tilamook where we got to see how they made cheese and ice cream and were introduced to beef jerky...yum. They always took us somewhere I never would have seen otherwise. We went to Yellowstone, Mt. Hood, ate dinner on the top of the Space Needle, down the Oregon coast and even to Canada and Northern California to stare in awe at the gargantuan redwoods. There are countless other road trips and camp outs we had. Sometimes we would just hang out at the house. The house that my grandfather built as his dream home to retire in. It sat on a hill that on a clear day your see all the way to Mt. Hood. There was a big field in the front where the neighbors cows would sometimes wander and graze. It's where I stumbled upon a baby calf one day. There was a huge garden and a tire swing in the back yard. I picked carrots, strawberries and got my first taste of fresh dill out of that garden. I learned how to play croquet, UNO, Rummy Cub, Solitaire and Challenge (a game the Granddad made up from UNO cards) at this house. I used to pin my brother down with the wickets (from croquet) in the front yard. Sometimes I would just sit under the giant cypress tree and read. Granddad cut away the lower branches of that tree so I could sit a chair under that tree. For years after the last time I was at that house he would always tell me that my reading spot was still there, that he kept the branches trimmed. That still tugs at my heart. I have an image in my mind of an empty chair sitting under a solitary tree with freshly trimmed branches, waiting for me to come back a read a story.
They sold the house a couple of years ago to come live here with my Aunt Jane. It was the practical thing to do and I have loved being able to see them so much more often. But I will dearly miss that house and all the years of memories that it held for me. A large part of my childhood was in that house with my grandparents. I wished I had appreciated it more at the time instead of worrying about stupid kid stuff. I wish I had listened closer to some of the stories and remembered the little details of his life. But I will forever cherish the memories I do have and hope that he knows what a special part he played in my life. Even though we don't say it out loud that often, I love you Granddad and thank you for showing me the world.