My grandpa passed away this weekend. Tomorrow we will lay him to rest. Today I want to spend a little time remembering him and what he meant to me. My mother in law said recently that we are always stuck remembering folks as they were when they were old but we should remember that being old was just a small part of their life. I like the below photo of my grandpa in his Navy whites and the other of him and my grandma on their wedding day…not because they are the best photos ever taken but because even though the pictures are old my grandparents are young, they are full of life and vitality. That’s how I want to remember them. As a young girl I thought that loving someone meant that you would cry when they passed away. Now that I’m older I realize loving someone is enjoying the time you spend together, making memories every chance you get, and cherishing those memories for a lifetime.For most of my life my grandparents lived in the same town as me. So growing up I spent many days and nights at their house. I remember we would go to bed very early and then wake up before the sun came up. My grandfather would bring coffee into the bedroom and my grandparents would smoke, drink coffee, and listen to talk radio in the dark while I laid all propped up between them. They usually let me drink a little cup of coffee heavy on the cream and sugar. That’s still the way I take my coffee today. My grandfather was a career Navy man and he retired early. He spent a lot of time with my brother and me. He was a tinkerer so he was always rigging something up to play with. He hung a big rope swing with a homemade carpet covered wood block as seat from a tree in his front yard and my brother and I would just play and play on it. He made a little mini golf course in the front yard and used to play on it with us. He used to let me roll what little hair he had in my grandma’s foam rollers. I think he even let me cut it a few times. When I was a toddler he would pull me around in my little red wagon until I fell asleep. My grandpa taught me how to play black jack, rummy, and five card stud when I was about five years old. Obviously he was crazy patient, or maybe just desperate for a card partner. He taught me how to play checkers, hit a golf ball, and was the first person to let me drive on the highway when I got my drivers permit. He was so calm I remember thinking I had better keep control of the car because there was no way he was jumping over to grab the wheel if something went wrong!
Friends and family alike would tell you that grandpa “Griff” was a real character in every sense of the word. He was eccentric. He was a wacky dresser. He even tinkered with his clothing. He would buy jumpsuits and decorate them himself for different holidays. He dyed canvas deck shoes to match these different get ups. At his one of his homes he hung a disco ball from the ceiling light on the front porch and was dang proud of it. He was always trying to get me to smell something he had made…cookies, stew, corn beef hash. He always thought you needed to smell it in order to determine if you wanted it. He bought crazy random off the wall birthday presents, but he was always sure he had found something you were going to absolutely love. When I was in middle school he had a horn hooked up in his car that was programmed to play nine different songs. Grandpa would pull up to pick me up after school and blare “Charge” or “You are My Sunshine” to announce his arrival. Sometimes I was mortified, but most of the time I was just proud to be the girl with the crazy grandpa. I know I always felt like was proud of me. The most menial achievements were grand in his eyes.
I read once that everything we accomplish in life we do so starting on the foundation of support, the example, and the love of those who came before us. I think this is true. I know the way my grandpa lived his life and the way he loved me and others in it gave me the best launching pad I could have asked for. If I had a chance the last things I would want to tell my grandpa are Thank you for the time you invested in me. Thank you for the memories we made. Thank you for living a life I can look up to. And I love you. Until we meet again.