Saturday, June 17, 2017

See You Later

This has been one of those weeks. A week that seemed to go on for a month. A bad nightmare I couldn't wake up from. Yet, here we are at the end of it. A finish line with no prize.

My grandpa died just shy of a week ago. A night I'll never forget, and one I'm not sure I want to remember. There's no preparation for that phone call in the middle of the night telling you that your grandpa is gone. There's no cheat sheet for how to drive over to your dad's house to wake him up from his sleep to tell him his dad is gone. It's not fair, and yet it's life.

You know, my grandpa and I weren't terribly close in adult hood. We were two very different people. He- stoic, reserved, a man of few words. Me- very relational, wear my heart on my sleeve, forward. And while we didn't speak much, I know he loved me. And I him. I can't help but feel regret that I didn't find out what made Grandpa - well, Grandpa. I wish I'd asked more questions, had more conversations. I don't know that he would have answered all of them, but maybe I'd feel less empty if I had known more about him. Maybe not. Either way, he's gone, and my heart still hurts. Not only for myself, but for my dad. For Marilou-his wife of ten years. I don't like seeing people in pain. It's hard to see it and not be able to fix it.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. A day where I get to celebrate so many important men in my life who have molded and shaped me or my kids. A day where we get to shower love on all the men who have done their part in fulfilling their part of our tribe. While some of these men I no longer get to hug here in the flesh, I still have the honor of sending up a little prayer of thanks to the ones who have gone before us: Grandpa Dick, Grandpa Teddy, Grandpa Irv, and Grandpa John. How lucky we were to have been loved by them.

It's ironic that I should feel such regret at not having spent more time with my Grandpa before he passed when right before the end of the school year, I felt this urge to find out all the stories I could get my hands on. I told my mom I wanted them written down, and I wanted to sit and hear them from my grandparents- from my parents, and I vowed that when the school year was over, I was going to make time to do that weekly, but now it's too late.

We aren't allotted a specific time here. We can get called home at any moment. The time is now. Visit your grandpa. Call your mom. Ask your Grandma to lunch. Send your dad a letter. Get to know them more than you already do. Ask them to tell you stories. Lay your head in their lap and tell them you want to know it all. I'm sure most are more than willing to oblige. All anyone ever really wants is to be heard. Validated. Seen. Loved.

I read a blog about a month ago where she sponsored Story Worth, a website that e-mails prompts to a person of your choosing each week for an entire year. You get to choose the prompts and each week, your loved one will answer their prompt, and their response can get e-mailed to as many people as you'd like. At the end of the year, all the responses will get bound into a book that will get sent to you in the form of a keepsake. Check it out! It may be a perfect Father's Day gift. We plan on using it as well!

In the mean time, I've made plans to sit with my Grandma Van and reminisce with her every week this summer. I can't wait to fill my memory bucket with her stories and some quality time.

I had some people ask to read the eulogy I gave for my grandpa's funeral, so hear you go!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mandi, and I am the 5th of Dick’s nine grandchildren. Many of you are here to honor a man that you knew as a friend, a peer, a neighbor, or maybe even a co-worker.  But to us – his 9 grandchildren and many more great-grandchildren – Dick was known simply as Grandpa. On behalf of our family, I would just like to say thank you for coming here today to help us celebrate Grandpa’s life and say our goodbyes.

It is an honor to be here before you to share stories of this extraordinary man, but it is daunting to do justice to a life that has spanned 86 years. Do I know enough about the whole of Grandpa’s life? Probably not. I couldn’t tell you about him as a young boy living in the 1930s. I don’t know much about how he met my grandma or their wedding. I know very little about him as a young father. But I, along with my cousins and siblings, CAN tell you what it was like to know him as a grandfather.

Grandpa was a great many things. He was kind, patient, reserved, funny, hard working. He was humble, dedicated to his family- a man of faith, but also a man of few words. In fact, I don’t think Grandpa and I ever had any deep or profound conversations, yet my memories are chalk full of the impact this man and my grandma made on my life.

My most treasured memories don’t surround any extravagant event or particular day. They were simple, but they will be memories I will cherish forever. These include:
-numerous weekly visits after school or church to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we would grab a glass of Diet Pepsi and tell them about our day.
- riding along in the truck with grandpa
- camping at Round Lake….bonus if you got to ride to the campground with them and not with mom and dad because that usually meant a trip to the Sather’s candy store and breakfast at a hole in the wall cafĂ© in a po-dunk town in the middle of nowhere.
- catching carp with our bare hands by the spillway and fishing with Grandpa off the dock.
- walking down to the store after breakfast so grandpa could have coffee with his friends while I fed Grandma quarters for the claw machine and if I was really lucky, leaving the store with a rainbow sherbet ice cream cone
- driving the golf cart around the circle, making sure to slow down past grandpa or we knew we’d be in for a lecture about being responsible drivers
- how he would check in anytime we were on a road trip to give us a weather report or make sure we were alright and telling us to call when we got to our destination safely
-his love for pens
-his infamous chocolate malts that he would only make if I begged real nicely or if I got to have a sleepover at their house

And maybe the most subtle memory I have…the one that has made me reflect a little harder this last week are the ones of us out for a Sunday afternoon drive with grandma and grandpa. It was typically a silent drive. Not a lot of talking. I can remember getting bored extremely fast and always telling myself I would NEVER take my grandkids for Sunday afternoon drives and go 20 miles per hour under the speed limit.

But you know what….I get it now. Grandpa had it right all along. Life passes us by so quickly, and if we’re lucky, we get 86 years on this Earth, so sometimes we just need to slow down, drink it all in and take a little time to be thankful for what we have.

By many accounts, Grandpa was a very stoic man, reserved in his speech. But years of grandchildren have chipped away at the gruff exterior, and it doesn’t take long if you look through our family pictures to see that Grandpa was a family man at heart.

I know that this week has been hard. It’s been a week full of sadness and tears, and we are feeling the emptiness of man who has impacted our lives in such a great way. But to my cousins and siblings, Marilou, my aunt Gloria and my dad- you need only look around you right now. Look what Grandpa gave you. It’s not money or’s family. This beautiful family is his legacy and every one of you are a part of it. How did we all get so lucky?

And to our Grandpa, we’ll miss you. Send our love to Grandma and Glenn. Don’t forget how much you mean to us. We love you. Rest peacefully. You deserve it.

Happy Father's Day!