Monday, October 25, 2010


With all of the blessings in my life there was one thing I was missing as a child, a grandpa. Both of my grandfathers passed before I was old enough to have any memories of them. Growing up I was usually quite weary of older men as I had no point of reference in my own life of what role a grandfather played. Even the Santa Claus at the mall scared me much into my older childhood because I could not readily identify with a nice old grandfatherly type of character they (at the mall) were trying to present. But that all changed when I met my husband. When we met I was fourteen and still an impressionable child in many ways. With my husband came a family compete with a set of granparents - Grandma and Granpa. I met them at Christmas the first year I knew my husband and instantly liked the two of them. And for the first time my idea of what a grandfather should be was brought to life in the best of ways.
Over the first years of dating my husband and I had lovely opportunities to get to know his grandparents even though they lived in Iowa and we in New Jersey. Theirs was a tight knit family who made sure to see each other on most holidays and other times throughout the year. Whenever the grandparents came to New Jersey I was around to see them and, by the time I graduated high school, I was included to join the family on a visit back to Iowa! I was in awe of the relationship I witnessed in these two mid-westerners; respectful and pleasant, united and loving, supportive and kind to one another and the true heads of the family. And I always felt I was a welcomed addition to their family despite my age or background.
My husband and I married at young ages for our generation and his grandparents travelled to Virginia where we were living to witness the event. They were overjoyed to see their oldest grandchild marry and were equally thrilled to know it was to me he chose as his bride. They were generous in spirit and in material gifts. We continued to see these wonderful people throughout the years for many occasions just like my husband did while he was growing up. We even packed up our children, then just our two sons, my husband, and a pregnant me to head back to Iowa last summer to celebrate Grandma's 90th birthday celebration. Our visit was heralded as it had been far too many years since we had been back to their home. The party was fantastic and we were so glad we went. Within three months Grandma fell ill and died, two weeks after our daughter was born.
Grandpa was devastated. We were all saddened and affected. But Grandpa lost his wife, his partner, his teammate. In the nearly twenty-three years I had known this couple I saw the deepest most cherished connection two people can share. Grandpa never saw any flaws in his wife; she was as near a perfect a human as they came in his opinion. She sat on the pedestal that he worshipped. She was the sun rising and setting. When Grandma passed part of Grandpa went with her. That is not to say that Grandpa gave up his will to live, quite the contrary. On the heels of her passing Grandpa, a wise man with enormous business acumen and a unshakable work ethic, took on the Herculean task of settling his wife's estate. With the help of his two daughters, their only children, he tirelessly set into motion the necessary tasks associated with the passing of one's spouse. He also steadfastly refused to move from their home in Iowa. Within six weeks Grandpa journeyed to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with us and his newest great-grandchild, our daughter, just as he had planned to do with his bride. At times he displayed the raw emotions of his loss, but was also able to laugh with unbridled joy when his three grandchildren inspired the levity. In the spring we all gathered in Florida where Grandma and Grandpa had rented for many years a condo to enjoy a few weeks of warmth at the end of a long Iowa winter. We celebrated Grandpa's 90th birthday with a smaller more intimate party. He was grateful but still quick to cry; he was always a man who wore his heart on his sleeve and unashamed to show true emotions, something his wife used to gently mock him. His tears that week were a combination of grief for his lost wife and an overwhelmed appreciation for all of the gifts God bestowed upon him with two daughters, three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and another grand on the way. He spoke of being lonely but also wanting to spend more quality time with his family. Grandpa was not going to stop living; he was alive and glad to be so!
This week is the first anniversary of the passing of Grandma. Grandpa is facing huge change; he's trying to sell his home, some other properties, and tie up loose ends in Iowa. He has decided that eventually moving into an assisted living environment closer to his daughters is the right choice for him. He is in no great rush, but he is taking the necessary steps to begin the process of moving. During the past year Grandpa has travelled several times to visit his extended family. He is soaking in the energies of his great-grandchildren. I am anxiously awaiting his return this year for Christmas. His addition to our celebration will bring depth and joy to our family reunion.
When I married my husband I married into his family. I added a second set of parents, a little brother, an aunt, uncle, and cousin, and a built-in set of grandparents. I was honored with observing the grandparents' marriage in all of its glory. She was strong, opinionated, domineering, and still loving and supportive. He was always kind, loving, interested, and ever-present. They held hands, laughed at the same things, gushed over their grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren in the same way. What I remember about Grandpa is he is very slow to anger and quick to resolution. He does not carry a grudge nor does he stew. He holds secrets to life that I am anxious to learn as he has so much to teach. When I married my husband I gained a Grandpa and I got the very best example of what a Grandpa can be in this world. I love you Grandpa and am so proud to be a member of your family. My children adore Great-Grandpa and my oldest has stated that when he grows up he is going to live in "this house with my best friend Thomas and my Great-Grandpa!" Is there any higher compliment? I hope they'll let me live there, too!


  1. Way to go Grandpa 187 :-) Sounds like a good man :-)

  2. I can't imagine a life without grandparents. So glad you found a pair and your kids have been fortunate enough to know great-grandparents. He sounds like a pistol.

  3. Cherish the time you have with grandpa and listen to the life lessons he has to share with you and your family. School can't teach you the knowledge this man can.