I wrote this back in January of 2007. I never posted it, even when Grandpa died this spring. It's time to stand tall and raise a glass...
I would like to raise a glass in memory of one of the best men it has ever been my honor to know - my grandfather John. Like my father, my grandfather is a man and a memory that stands taller than time and stronger than love...
The grandpa of my childhood stood eye to eye with Dad. He swam and played and fished and loved all of his children and grandchildren no matter how we plagued him. He was as tall as the mountains, as warm as the morning Cabin fires, and as fun and funny and loving and caring as any child could want in a grandpa. Even as he aged, and greyed, and we grew to find that the mountains were not endless, he was still strong in love and laughter.
As my tastes changed from ice cream sundaes and hide-and-seek, I discovered the grandpa who devoured histories and biographies, who appreciated watching the sun on dappled leaves, and who could watch today turn into yesterday while looking forward again to tomorrow.
It wasn't until I was much older that I learned more about my grandfather as a person rather than a playmate. I learned about the hard-working businessman he had been for most of his life, and the lifelong friendships he'd formed. I learned, through various sources, of the difficulties his four girls put him through, though by the time I was hearing the tales, they were mostly told with a laugh and a shrug.
Responsibility, dignity, and dedication are not traits that are readily apparent to a child, but they were foundations upon which the family could build a house of stone and light, strength with humor, and duty with love.
Of course, anyone who really knew Grandpa also knew that neither his sense of dignity nor respectability would prevent him from jumping into a lake to amuse a small child, or resort to obvious trickery to steal that same child's dessert a sunset later. In the summer evenings under the stars, he would drink until his nose turned red, play the sharpest games of cards until it was too dark to see them, and tell fish tales that had us laughing until it hurt to breathe. He took us around the world in his words, and still does, though nowadays it is over a civilized dinner at a respectable establishment where food fights are entirely unknown.
I would like so much to paint you a portrait of a man who, himself, paints, but a great deal of it is beyond the limits of what my words can capture. If you know him, you know his smile, the way he lifts his eyebrow to see if you are looking when he starts some mischief, the way he tilts his head to better concentrate on a thought. You know the gentle shrug he gives when forgiving some little thing, you have heard the way that he answers the phone and says your name like a precious joke - always surprising, always worth a smile and a nod.
As was said at my wedding, it's important to hold on to love and memories. It's also important to remember who the people are who love us, and celebrate them too, because in a way they define us as well. Sometimes we forget to be awed by the people who love us, and by the fact that they love us, and by how strongly and elegantly and dazzlingly they love us. Sometimes we can't imagine that they would; we can't understand why they do... But they do love us all the same, and we love them in return. Grandpa is such a person to me. He loves me. He loves *us,* faults and all.
He is a good man, and a man I am proud to know, to talk about, and to share with everyone who can appreciate him.
I don't know that there's much else that Grandpa would want said about him when he does leave us for good. I suppose I could say, "rest in peace," but really, I can't imagine it. I look at the picture of him from Thanksgiving, and even there, in his smiling 90-year-old face, I can see that gleam of mischief in his smile, and his hand raised to make a point in the conversation. I can't imagine him any other way.