in memoriam.

My grandfather was a flawed man. I know that.

He never painted himself a saint, and that might be one of the things I admired most about him. He knew he had made mistakes in his life, and he changed things, and he taught me that no matter what I do, I can always turn myself around.

My grandfather was a teacher. I experienced that.

He used to bring home scrap wood and let my sister and I make the most ridiculous damn creations out of tin cans and two by fours and for some reason, he trusted us to use hammers and nails and not kill each other. Because of him, I am strong, and independent, and can hang pictures and put together furniture and try to figure out to how fix something myself before I get help.

My grandfather was a packrat. I saw that.

He saved EVERYTHING. The garage at my grandparents house was full of empty bottles and stacks of magazines and an airplane propeller. He kept a lot of things that were probably junk, but he also kept the pictures and poems my sister and I did for him and my grandma. I still have some of them. A lot of times, we'd be in the car heading somewhere, and he'd stop on the side of the road and pick up a stool, or a box of books, or a toy he thought my sister and I might like. And then he'd clean it up, and it was as good as new, and when I was younger, when I wanted the 'latest and greatest', I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now.

My grandfather was a clown. I heard that.

The most common phrase I heard him say was 'Do you believe that fib?' He was always telling a joke or making up a funny story or doing anything he could to get my sister and I to laugh. Part of my inherent goofiness definitely comes from him.

My grandfather was a wise man. I listened to that.

From the time I was just starting to notice boys, he always told me, 'Andrea, don't get married young. Maybe not ever. Men are idiots.' As I got older, the advice changed a bit: 'Andrea, you're a smart young lady and don't settle for someone dumber than you like your grandma did.' Most recently, it was, 'This is my beautiful granddaughter. I hope she finds someone worthy of her.' The advice changed, but the love behind it never wavered.

My grandfather was a romantic. I loved that.

He loved his wife. His Jennie. They were together over fifty years. Fifty years. Does that even happen anymore? You can see in the pictures of them when they were young that they were head over heels in love. And through the years, that love stayed with them. They truly were soulmates. When my grandma died almost seven years ago, I thought for sure we'd lose him soon after.

My grandfather was a loving man. I felt that.

One thing I never doubted was my grandpa's love for me. And for my sister. And my father. And my grandma. He did what he could to make sure that our lives would be just a little bit easier. He gave advice and doled out hugs and always had an extra dollar for some cotton candy if I needed it. He cared so much about his family, even when it was sometimes hidden by silly jokes and a little bit of cantankerousness. He loved us so much.

I feel blessed that I had my grandfather in my life for 29 years. That's a gift that so many others don't get. It makes it harder to say goodbye, but it makes it easier to remember. And I don't believe in much anymore, but I believe with every single fiber of my being that when he left this world this morning, he met my grandma on the way to whatever is waiting for us after this life....and just like when they were both here, their hands just naturally found each other's.

I love you always, Big Kid.

April 4, 1919 - September 26, 2011
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