June 14, 2013
My most vivid memories of my grandfather are sensory: the feel of his graying hair under my little hands when he lifted me onto his shoulders; the fabric of his sport coat against my puffed sleeve as I sat beside him in his pew at church; my fascination with his missing finger; his glasses against my cheek when I gave him a hug.
Unlike so many friends’ fragile grandfathers, my grandpa farmed, cut wood and carried really heavy stuff. He was a man of few words who needed a toothpick and a cup of coffee after a good meal. He took his coffee black. He absolutely loved to ride roller coasters.
It’s strange to me that the sun still rises and sets…and yet my grandpa is gone.
In a phone conversation I had with him, just a few short weeks ago, I told him how sorry I was that I hadn’t called more often. Visited more frequently. Of course, Grandpa told me that it was OK. We grow up and become busy with our own lives. He loved me so much; the last thing he wanted was for me to feel guilt over what couldn’t be undone.
As many of you know, I was here just days ago. Despite assurances that grandpa likely had months left, it felt incredibly important that I see him, sooner than later. Prepared for the worst, I was happy and comforted to see him as I’ve always known him.
By God’s grace, this is how I will always remember him. Sitting up in his plaid shirt, glasses and jeans; telling me he loved me and was looking forward to seeing me again.
My children will never know my grandfather. Never sit at his knee or try on his John Deere cap. But they’ll hear stories! Stories of a man who lost his childhood under Japanese fire, who survived where others fell, who knew how to tell a joke and called my grandma “Toots.”
My grandfather didn’t like chicken or Japanese cars. He wasn’t a huge fan of Europe. But he loved his God. He loved his family. He loved his country. He loved the rolling farmland of his state. His home. And he fought fiercely for its sake.
As for me, I will always remember how small the world seemed; the stars somehow closer and the wind cooler from where I sat, so safe and so high, on my grandpa’s shoulders.