I’ve always called him “Pa”. When I was little I couldn’t pronounce “Grandpa”, I always ended up with just plain Pa; which made my sister (3 years older) think that’s what he was called. So now he is called Pa. When he writes me e-mails that is what they’re signed; and it seems to be what he thinks of himself (when he’s talking to my sister and I).
When I was in 2nd and 3rd grade my mother decided that my sister should be in the Girl Scouts (since she enjoyed the experience so much when she was a child). However, there was no organization in our area, at least none close enough that my Mother was willing to drive to. So my Mom started up a new section of the scouts, which she had to head the meetings of, held every Thursday. Of course being the age that I was, I wasn’t allowed to go home (since there was no one there). Which meant that every Thursday after school, I’d walk the half my mile to my Grandparent’s house and get spoiled rotten. They lived towards the top of a very short but steep hill, and whenever I walked in the door my Grandmother would run over and tell me she’d seen me laboring up the hill and I looked so hot and so worn out, I should just go lay down in her bed (that was in front of the TV) and she’d come up with a “brown cow” (root-bear float) and some graham crackers with her wonderful vanilla frosting on them. I’d talk with her and Pa about my day and the rest of my week. Sometimes I’d go down to the basement with Pa and play pool, sometimes I’d play with the wooden blocks my Grandfather had made for my father. I’d build strongholds, or bridges; sometimes I’d even build complicated river diversion and control systems. Those Thursdays are by far the best memories of my life.
After a couple of years my Mother got sick of the work it took to organize the girl scouts and the angry calls she got from other parents (for stupid reasons). The Thursday’s at my Grandparents stopped, but our houses are only a 5 minute drive away, which meant that we still did many things together. On all special occasions (holidays and birthdays and such) our whole family would get together (including my Grandparents and my Aunt who also lived very close). Whenever we needed a babysitter, my Grandparents stepped in. Normally, we’d watch a movie together, and then play games. Many times I would go down to the basement and take out my toys (a really detailed helicopter, a plane, a tank, and a few plastic soldiers). Often, instead of actually playing with those toys, I would discuss with my Grandpa some new development I’d seen on the discovery channel. He always seemed to know what was possible and what was just wishful thinking, in fact, he seemed to know just about everything. Even when I began to realize that my father sometimes didn’t know what to do, or what was right, my Grandpa always seemed to. Even today I can’t think of a thing my Grandpa has done he shouldn’t have, or even a question he didn’t know the answer to.
During middle school and the beginning of high school, I still very much loved my Grandparents; but we saw each other less as I no longer needed a baby sitter, and they only came over for special occasions. Then, during the first semester of my sophomore year, my Grandmother went in for surgery. She had a chronic shoulder injury and the doctors thought they could fix it through a simple operation. After surgery, which went fine, she was forced to wear a large cube like object under her arm to keep it in the right position. It kept her from doing many of the things she’d always been fond of doing, going for hikes and most cooking. She was going to be able to take it off at around the end of the school year, but she didn’t make it.
Before she had the surgery, my Grandmother ate a fair amount, but it had never been a problem since she went on many walks with my Grandfather, sometimes 10-20 miles long (my Grandparents were around 70 years old). Now she was restricted from much movement, but not from eating. I don’t think she gained weight, certainly none of us ever noticed it, but in late January, she died of a heart attack. My Parents, Sister, and I, had just gotten back from a week long trip to Disneyworld, we hadn’t yet had a chance to speak to my Grandparents about it.
I remember coming home from school that day; we were all going to go on a trip over the weekend (everyone including my Grandparents and Aunt) and when I walked home Thursday afternoon I was quite excited. I wasn’t surprised to see two extra cars in front of our house, I assumed they were there to discuss the trip. When I walked in the door, everyone said hi, and seemed happy. Then my Dad came over to me at the door and told me “Grandma’s had a heart attack. She didn’t make it”.
This isn’t about my Grandmother’s death, this is about my Grandpa, so let me tell you about his reaction. When I was finally able to stop crying and leave my room I sat down calmly with the rest of my family and talked for a while. They all told me what had happened, how she’d just suddenly had a heart attack, and that the ambulance hadn’t even left my Grandparent’s house by the time she died. “She went very peacefully” my Grandfather said, she died almost in her sleep. He seemed perfectly contented by this answer, his wife had lived a full life and had died with little pain. He was cheerful when he talked that night, at peace. That was one of the main reasons I made it through that period.
After a few weeks I started thinking about my Grandpa, about how he was no less vulnerable to death than my Grandmother, our time was limited. And so I began thinking about who my Grandpa really was, and I began to remember many of the things I’ve already told you. I began to talk with him more, think about him more. I realized that he knew so much about just about everything that interested me. He even got me interested in other things, things like the stock market and economy, got me thinking about all sorts of subjects. He seemed an expert in every field, from baseball to long term investments, he knew all that one could possibly need to know.
The last three summers I’ve spent at least a full week living with Pa, staying at his house while my family went off on camping trips. We went out to eat together, and the conversation never lagged. I was always fascinated by his stories and ideas. Most times we’d eat at home; he’d make his pizza, (which is the best pizza ever made, and I’m not the only one who thinks this ) once again we’d talk, and once again I’d be mesmerized by his knowledge and his joviality. Everything he talked about was fascinating, and everything he said made sense.
This last summer, when I got my new road bike, I toke short rides around town to try and get used to riding. I realized that a great short bike ride was to my Grandfather’s house, about 7 minutes but still a good work out because of all the elevation involved. So I would ride up there and stop in. Most times Pa would offer me a drink and we sat down at his table (he’d have a scotch or some other similar drink) and talk. Often about baseball, about the trip to Indiana, about the stock market, about whatever came up. Then, after maybe 30 or 40 minutes, I’d leave and bike home. I only did this a few times, since I left for college shortly after, but it is one of the things I miss most about my home: that it was so close to his.
Hi, What a good landmark topic. It's great that you have such a wonderful relationship with your grandfather. My grandparents lived in different states when I was growing up, but it was always fun to see them.
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What a beautiful story to read, first thing, on a windy Saturday morning! Thanks Hobbes. Keep up the fluff! (And this stuff too. You write very well indeed.)
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You know, my grandparents live in Israel, so I get to see them once a year, if I'm lucky. This post has made me wish so much more that I could see them often. I really miss them now. Hobbes, that was so touching. I hope you stay here very very long.
Definitely worth the read Hobbes. Thank you!! Isn't amazing how grandparents are the coolest most interesting people on the planet? I wish I had lived closer to mine because I feel the same way about them as you feel about yours. Great post!
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