I feel an enormous amount of weight on my shoulders. Everyday in my own life, an era is coming to an end. I feel a great responsibility to step up to the plate. To love more. To be better. I have had some of the very best teachers. I know I should be grateful for the time that I have had, but I am not sure this apprentice is ready for the responsibility. I have so many questions. So many stories I have missed. So many moments that I want back. I wish I would have held those moments more closely. I wish I would have spent more time.
He is the last man in my life from the greatest generation. He is my grandpa. He is my friend.
He was my very first boss. He paid me $2 per gopher that I could trap in the field. I would keep track of how many I got per day and at the end of the week he would look at my notebook and pay me. The other day my own daughter was down trapping gophers on those same fields when I offered her the same price of $2 a gofer. I realized then that if that is the going rate today, I was making pretty good money back then and I think my boss may have been over paying me.
I spent a lot of time outside and at the field with my grandpa. I could most often be found out playing basketball at my house, nearly every day. My grandpa would drive by and I would follow him down to the field to shadow this great man. He worked so hard. I rarely today see a man tending to his cows the way my grandpa did. He was there at least three times a day. In the summer that means I got to see him three times a day. If by chance I didn’t make it to the field in time, he would always stop on the road, roll down his window “and how are you today” he would ask while reaching a Rolo out the window to me. He was always happy. Always happy to see me.
I also got to help my grandpa take the cows out on the mountain and bring them back in each year. We always fought to sit either next to grandpa, or my dad. Grandpa first, then my dad. He knew so much about the area. He could tell stories about every piece of land and being right next to him, you could hear the most. He was an incredible man. I think he loved his cows. Not just because they provided for the family, but I really feel he had a deep respect for the animal. I remember watching him as we would prepare to gather the cows and bring them home. He would stand beside his truck looking at the cows off in the distance. My dad would often look through the binoculars, but my grandpa just seemed to have a sense. He could tell if one of the cows on the ridge was his without even being able to see the tag. He was always right too. Always.
Grandma would make sure to feed us all well, but grandpa made specific requests. In addition to grandmas sandwiches we always had coke, can’s of Beanie Weenies, Vienna Sausages, and some candy. We all got a hefty dose of the sweet tooth from our grandpa.
On the way home, heavy with Benadryl I would often fall asleep on his lap or shoulder as we bounced down the old dirt road. But not without the memories of his old truck, the calendar stuck to the dashboard, a coke tucked between his legs and some treats rolling around somewhere in the truck or clenched tight in my palm.
Grandpa hasn’t forgotten a thing. Still today he can tell you every place he has ever lived, most of the roads he has been on, the people he met there, and the reason he was there. I love sitting at the table and listening to his stories of when he worked in the mines, or the old gas station. I love hearing him tell the story about how he met my grandma. She was his best friend since the 2nd grade. He always knew he loved her. “She’s my best friend.” He still says. He will care for her no matter what. This last post was a perfect example of that. No matter what, he will take care of Grandma. He will give it his all, for her, until his last breath.
He loves my grandma so. He respects her and supports her. She does the same for him. I asked him once what grandma thought of the tractor and he said that she didn’t care to be on the tractor very much but she liked to watch. He would see her over by the fence watching him work. “She’s my best friend.” There is was again.
He taught me how to clean a fish. I watched him cut and prepare the meat from the game that he or the kids got on the hunt. I watched him for years as he worked at the sawmill and got to spend plenty of time with him playing in the sawdust. He taught me that there is an appropriate use for words like, “shit, damn and hell” and that he would always be the one that gets up to kiss his bride. Look at my Dad (and the rest of his kids). You will see the legacy that he has made. To raise a man like that…you must be an incredible man and example. “Not a bad one in the bunch,” Grandpa would say. He and grandma both have a part in that.
Grandpa never ages at heart. He still is a joker and loves to play. I love the way his whole face lights up when something is said. Just the other day I got to see this as his sister Janett was teasing him about how he used to tease her and pinch her nose. He laughed and clearly lied when he said, “now I don’t remember that.”
He plays with the kids still. They walk in the door and he will ask them to “come sit right here” and pull them onto his lap. He plays hide and seek still tries to bounce the kids like a horse on his foot. I long when I see him to hear the words, “I love you,” and “that’s just right”, and especially, “you bet”. I know he loved me. He told me and he showed me every time I was in the room with him. I sure hope he knows just how much I love him too.
I love sharing treats with my grandpa, and talking with him. I love seeing the world through his eyes. Everything is wonderful to him. He doesn’t always show this in his actions, but if you listen to the stories he tells, really listen, you will see how much he learned and took in from every situation. He loved experiencing the world. He loved being apart of people’s lives.
He loved driving bus and getting to know all of the kids. He was one of the biggest supporters of the high school sports and was especially active when one of his grand-kids was playing. He came to most of my games and even when I was coaching he and my Grandma drove over 6 hours to watch me coach just one game. If it was important to me, it was important to him.
He never expected people to do anything for him or his family. He worked hard for everything that he has and worked hard to provide for my grandma and for his kids. Still today it is his greatest concern that they not be a burden to anyone. If only he knew just how much the world owes him, how much I owe him. He is a great man. I wonderful grandpa. A wonderful friend.
I am so very thankful for the wonderful lessons that my grandpa has taught me. After all, he was my very first boss. He taught me about the world and how to work hard. He showed me by example exactly what that looks like. He taught me to always put family first and just how easy it is to say “I love you.”
Tonight I am going to have a bowl of ice cream…with caramel…maybe some popcorn and some m&m’s…an Oreo or two…and a Rolo. Follow that up with a coke and realize that in life what really matters is sharing treats, stories, and time.