Don’t Sneeze


It was the first time in my life that I was going to my grandfather’s village, and Grandpa wasn’t there.

He had transitioned over to the realm of pure love and light over a week ago, but it only struck me as we were driving up there that I was not going there to visit Grandpa.

At least not in the way we did before.

If you are lucky, no one loves you like a grandparent.

A grandparent’s love is uncomplicated, unconditional, fun.

I can’t tell you about my grandfather the man. I can’t tell you when or where he served in the military, or how he met my grandmother, rest and bless her soul. I don’t even know what his favorite song or color was. Those would be nice things to know, but I do not know those details.

I can only tell you about my grandfather as just that– a grandpa.

It surprised how many memories bubbled to the surface, in light of his death. For my whole life, I’ve lived several states and hours away from Grandpa, so I didn’t get to see him as often as some of my other family members. Especially over the past decade of marriage and young children who do not do particularly well on long car rides, I did not get to visit with Grandpa as much as I would have enjoyed.

One of my favorite memories of Grandpa is of going with him, when I was a very young child, with my brother and sometimes a cousin or two over to the barns. He would take us to see the sheep and cows. It was particularly exciting if there were babies to pet and love on in the clean straw.

His tour eventually lead us to the milking parlor and then he would take us to the place where the milk was stored, in a huge, stainless steel tank. He would allow us to climb up a narrow, always taking care that we did not slip and fall, and as we would peer in to the gallons and gallons of milk below, he would say, “Don’t sneeze!” Least we contaminate the milk with our germs.

I remembered him at the head of the table for many special meals. I remember sitting on a piano bench beside hm at the crowded and festive table, and if we kids acted up, Grandpa would threaten “I’m gonna take a hold of you!” But I never felt particularly scared or threatened in the least by that statement. It always seemed like it was meant in good humor, but somehow did the trick to get us back on track.

Speaking of humor it always seemed like he had a good one, at least with us grandkids.

I remembered waking up the day after Thanksgiving before dawn to find a few inches of snow had fallen. My brother and I ran exuberantly down the hall to wake the house. Grandpa told us to go back to bed but he wasn’t mad.

I remembered so many visits, they blend into one memory. The horses and cows and rides.

I remembered him swirling a glass of eggnog as he played trivia pursuit with the whole family, Christmas songs playing on the old record player and an air of contentment all around, the savory scents of turkey mingling with the sweetness of warm pies.

I remembered him taking me aside as a newly graduated high school kid, the summer before I went into college and tellng me how important education is, and his generous offer to help support my college education.

I remembered him trying to get us all to try this fruit cake, promising is that it wasn’t like any old fruit cake and it would be delicious if only we ate it with some cheddar cheese. We never took him up on that offer but I so respect his perseverance.

I remembered his special love of animals, how I grew to be a dog person while visiting the many special dogs at his and nanas house.  In fact, I think I can attribute my love, respect, and admiration of animals great and small to Grandpa. Although I’m afraid horses will always terrify me.

I remembered Grandpa’s handwriting in the many letters and cards he sent over the years. He wrote to me about the fair when I couldn’t go, and about his favorite barbecue chicken and corn on the cob.

I remembered watching slideshows of Grandpa and Nana’s travels, projected onto the old living room wall. He loved history and respected other cultures and explored the world. On my desk at home I still have an authentic Matrioshka doll that he and nana brought me back from Russia. Sometimes I allow my little daughter to play with it, and the squeak with which it comes apart always reminds me of Nana and Grandpa.

I remembered how excited Grandpa was when I told him I was honeymooning in Hawaii, which he said had been one of his favorite places he’d been. I also found Hawaii to be life-altering, and I really like to think that was a special bond we shared. That amazing spirit of Aloha.

I remembered the joy and gentleness with which Grandpa met my children– his great grand kids, well two of them anyway. It always seemed so special to him. I’d think that after all the grandkids and great grands that it would lose its luster. But it never did. He got to meet my son, Jack, twice and he got to meet my daughter Emily once.

I have a really special memory of my son approaching Grandpa. Jack just cozied up next to him, posed for some pictures and chatted with him a bit. Jack was barely five at the time, so I don’t even know if he remembers. I was struck by how natural and comfortable it seemed. It warmed my heart.

It touched me because it seemed like Jack just instinctively knew this old dude was cool. Like he knew there was love there.

Because, if you are lucky, no one loves you like your Grandpa.

I feel sad about not seeing Grandpa again. But I know his pain is nowhere.

And his love is everywhere.

And love never dies.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Hey Kids, Remember the Summer We All Got Bat Rabies? | momaste

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