A Grandfather

My grandfather lived from 1910-2000.  Last month, for no special reason, I wrote out some short notes about him.  I really didn’t know him that well, and can now only wish I’d spent more time with him.  I suppose these memories reflect myself more than they depict him, but it feels good to do this:

  • My grandfather kept a garden in his backyard, in which he grew rhubarb.  He loved rhubarb.
  • He often took long, quiet walks by himself.
  • He kept a collection of big books downstairs.  I remember him having a copy of (the then-new novel) James Clavell’s Noble House, which he freely agreed to let me read.  As a child, I predictably couldn’t make it past the first page.  I just read it a few years ago and loved it.
  • He went to church on Sundays and, when he was in town, made sure to take my brother and me.  When we got home, he told our parents that we had been “good as gold.”
  • He smoked cigars and blew smoke rings to amuse children.
  • He babysat us on New Year’s Eve as the 90s began and, when I expressed young enthusiasm for all the great changes coming our way, he smiled kindly and tempered my gushing with some calm reminder that human nature won’t change much.
  • He made sure he contributed to any work going on around him, even if he hadn’t been asked to.
  • He doted on his wife in her ailing health, no matter how frustrating it obviously became.
  • He didn’t approve of much that he saw in the world around him, but didn’t make an issue of it publicly.
  • He didn’t suffer fools at all, though, and would incisively call out any that paraded in front of him, never hesitating to label something “stupid” if it was.
  • He wrote his last name on portable items that he owned.
  • He was polite but assertive.  He was kind but honest.  He was cynical, but not bitter.  He did not apologize, probably because he knew where he stood and thought before he spoke.  He might offend, but never did so with intent to insult, only to do what he felt necessary.
  • He would go to bakeries and doughnut shops early in the morning and ask if they’d give him yesterday’s items that they were going to throw away.
  • He worked part time at a fast food restaurant after he retired.  Before that, he had been a school principal.  He was happy to work in whatever way he could.
  • He sometimes rode a bike.