I miss Grandpa. Well, technically he was my step-grandfather, being my grandmother’s second husband. But they had already been married for many years long before I was born. He was the only Grandpa I really knew. Last month would have been his 105th birthday; he died in 1985. Every year I reflect on this simple, yet strong, good-hearted man. And I miss him.
He always had time to take my brothers and me fishing, summer or winter. He worked swing shift at the iron mines, yet he seemed ready to fish at the drop of a hat. I have several photos of our fishing adventures. He made sure we had a chance to pull them in, even if a struggle for us.
One time on opening weekend of fishing season, he took us fishing. He left my brother and me on the small inlet while he parked the car. Being an eager young fisherman, I cast out into the shallow water. Before the car was parked, I had a five pound bass. In my great pride I ran down the gravel road to Grandpa wanting to show my trophy. One look and Grandpa whispered as loud as he could “Throw it in the trunk!!” “Why, Grandpa?” He only said louder, “Throw it in the trunk!” It wasn’t until we got back home that I realized that bass season didn’t start until two weeks later; Grandpa didn’t want to let go of the trophy!
Ice fishing was another adventure. He didn’t believe in fish houses. No, he carried a hand auger to get a small hole in the ice, then we had to strain ice out of it every 5-10 minutes. One time we caught a fish that was bigger than the hole. That really bothered Grandpa. “Hell’s bells!” was the extent of his foul language and reserved for the most dire circumstances. This was one of those times. I miss Grandpa.
For a short while in the mid 1950’s they lived in a small trailer house about a half block from the railroad tracks. I still have vivid memories of that time: his distinctive cough in the middle of the night, the sound of the railroad activity, and the smell of tobacco. Not long after that he gave up cigarettes. They had bought property and were getting ready to build a house. As he had done for so many others through the years, he was right there building the house from the basement up. At least this time he didn’t need the team of horses to dig out the basement.
In 1955 he took my older brother and me to a professional wrestling event in a little town west of us. What an eye opener for a young kid! What a most exciting place to be! And we even saw women wrestlers. Grandpa loved pro wrestling, even in his old age. As he watched on TV, he would sit in a straight-back chair with his hands clamped on the seat by his sides. Soon he would be twisting and grunting and groaning with the wrestlers, but his hands never left the seat! I miss Grandpa.
When I was younger, Grandpa seemed a little grumpy or gruff, not in a negative way though. As the years rolled by, I understood that he really wasn’t grumpy and certainly not with us. He didn’t always know how to show love, but he was a very loving man. After he retired and arthritis began to take its toll on what he could and could not do, I occasionally saw the tears of pain. And when our own children came along, he wasn’t afraid to show emotion with them and us. I have learned to be more open with my own grandkids.
During this last decade as my mother wrote her autobiography I learned a lot more about my Grandpa. My respect for him has grown considerably. He had endured a lot, yet remained steady, faithful, and dependable. And he never complained.
Now, as we have five grandchildren, I realize how much he taught me about life, and especially about being a grandpa. With one major difference: growing up, we lived six miles from my Grandpa and saw him many times during the week. But now, our grandchildren live more than a 1,000 miles away. What a blessing it was to have Grandpa that close to us; at the time we took it for granted. I’m sorry we did. I miss Grandpa.
My middle name carries on his legacy. I miss Grandpa!