Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Granddad

Granddad started out as 'Granddaddy' if I recall correctly. He wasn't a very feely-fuzzy kind of man, though, and the shorter title he later took on seemed more of a fit. Growing up, I hesitate to say he got stuck with me during summer visits, but because I didn't have any brothers or sisters for the first 7 years of my life, and because Grammy was often busy in the kitchen, Granddad was usually left in charge of entertaining me.

Granddad may not have been in-tune with the girly princess scene, but he sure knew how to make a summer afternoon interesting. He would take me to Lake Meredith to feed the carp (trash fish, he called them, and it was true, they'd eat anything), or to the park to see the birds at the 'bird prison', or if it was near the 4th of July, he'd pick up some black cats and then we'd drive out into the country and set them off. He'd use old shot gun shells as mini-cannons and tell me stories of a cousin that blew off his thumb playing with fireworks irresponsibly, and stress that safety and caution had to be used (as we held shot gut shells loaded with small artillery in our bare hands). Even days spent at their small home where they raised my mom and her four siblings were fun. He'd don his work coveralls and we'd spend the mornings at the breakfast table where he would do crossword puzzles in ink without breaking a sweat, and I would eat cereal and drink orange juice out of the same bowl and cup my mom used when she was a little girl. The afternoon would be spent in his small garage workshop where he would let me sit and visit with him while he worked on all sorts of interesting pet projects, usually making his own bullets or rebuilding some small appliance. I remember he had this old mason jar filled with spare typewriter letters that I loved to play with, and in the evenings we would play cards and he would let me have one hershey kiss for every ten points I scored from the glass candy dish in the living room. When I was a little older he would take me shooting, and always let me stand a little closer to the target in order to get a 'perfect shot'. Always the jokester, we had a running dialogue for years and years of pg rated jokes, many of them directed at aggies, that we would trade back and forth via birthday cards, letters and phone calls.

He was full of spunk and had a unique sense of humor that often came across as sarcasm (which I totally inherited). He wrote countless letters to editors, politicians and civic leaders that were direct and hilarious and could make up a book they were so funny. To this day I call my honey 'bee spit' and call the cool whip 'shaving cream' on my pumpkin pie. Granddad's taste in food definitely reflected his unique personality. Fruitcake, black licorice and all things sour were favorite 'treats' (yuck). I half believe he might have trained his pallet to embrace the unpopular just to spite the majority. He'd always opt for a slice of cherry pie or some other fruit-themed dessert instead of something sweet and chocolatey, but we did share a love for Root Beer!

I loved the stories my mom would tell of him from her childhood. How he worked on all of their cars, which he would buy used and nurse along to save money (he was very good at saving money) and how he was color blind and would put together interesting outfits for church. Or how he would get so mad at the family cat when he would run over some prey left in the yard with the lawn mower and go stomping around like he was going to take away one of her nine lives only to blow a big puff of air in her face when he finally found her, before resuming his chore.

As I grew, I learned to admire him for more than his wit and intelligence. He was a very devout Catholic and his strong faith and dedication to the church were undeniable. He was never one to compromise his moral compass just because a situation or circumstance made doing the right thing difficult. In fact, I imagine that when it was a challenge or when it was unpopular might have been when he most enjoyed standing up for what he believed in.

So while Granddad will never be remembered by me as a feely-fuzzy granddaddy, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I know he loved me, and he will always will be my very special, one-of-a kind Grandad, and I will miss him greatly.

Give 'em hell up there in heaven Granddad, and tell uncle Johnny that I can't wait to meet him.

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