This past weekend marked 16 years since my grandpa has passed. My heart still aches for him almost daily. I don’t know if I have ever felt such a strong connection to an individual than my grandpa. This was a man that was gruff, he swore, drank and smoked till that nearly killed him. He was a real man. He was a man with convictions. He was a man that had ever fiber of my being wrapped around his finger. I had the privilege of living on the same street as my grandpa from 4th grade till 10th grade when we moved. We even lived with my grandparents on two short term stints. To walk, ride my bike to their house is an amazing gift I had as a child. To see him driving down the street or come into the cafe for a cup of coffee when I was working was so special. I was truly blessed to have that time with him. He was hard on me. He would ask how my classes are going, ask about my grades. He was so proud of me when I attended college and then graduated with a Bachelors degree. I will never forget the hug and I knew you could do it kid comment I got from him.
When Chad met my grandpa I think he was in shell shock. He didn’t know how to take his abuse. If you knew Duane or Mickey as his friends called him he did give abuse and grief to you. That is how you knew he accepted you. You were one of the group and the family then. One of my favorite memories of grandpa and Chad were right after we were married. Chad got hurt at work and burned one hand pretty bad and he broke his finger and messed up the other hand pretty bad also. So he was pretty much worthless with his hands for a few days. I had invited my grandparents over to our house and I had made a ham. I watched my grandpa grab Chad’s plate and he cut up his food. A simple gesture but it made such a profound impact in my memories.
I remember the night of my grandpas death like yesterday. Our phone was down and the phone company needed to come and repair the line. I had called my parents from a pay phone that morning and alerted them we didn’t have a phone till the repair guys came. This was before we had cell phones. Chad and I went that day to Eau Claire, WI and did some shopping and I remember I bought a new spring jacket at Sears, of all the things to remember. We went to bed and Chad woke me up past midnight that someone was knocking on the door. We went to the door and there was my dad and grandma. They had driven to Hammond WI to tell me that Grandpa died that night. They knew my phone didn’t work and they didn’t want us to find out the next day. My dad driving grandma over to my house is a courtesy I can never forget. It was the saddest moment but also most touching moment in my life. They cared enough to deliver the news in person to me after they had just lost their dad and husband.
16 years ago, I can’t believe it has been that long. I so wish he could have met my children. How he would have loved Greta and Henry. How he would have loved to give them a hard time. To see them preform in band, or school activities. Maybe see them in a baseball/softball game. He would have loved to see his great grand-kids because he would have been a “great” Grandfather.
I will always have the memories or my grandfathers pants hanging from the dining room chair with his service gun sitting on the table. It was a ritual for him and one I miss seeing.
I have had several dreams with grandpa in them through the years. They bring such comfort but also really mess with my head for days after those dreams. They are so real, it is as if he is talking to me about a situation in my life now. I really believe grandpa has helped me with numerous decisions in the past few years. He visited me in a dream most recently after I accepted the job at the radio. He told me to go for it. He told me that I can talk crap and I can be anyone’s friend and that is what I needed to be a local voice on the radio. I was very conflicted when I got the offer of the job and this really made my heart go in agreement with my brain. Grandpa said go for it. I am so glad I did because I am so happy and I hope to God he knows that!