Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Memory of My Grandpa

My grandpa passed away yesterday. I was so lucky to have had such a wonderful grandfather. Here are some things I want my kids to know about him:

  • When I was little, I had an irrational fear that my parents would abandon me somewhere. Two things comforted me: 1. I knew my mom wouldn't leave her purse (and rationalized that if her purse was with me she must be planning to return). 2. I knew my grandparents' phone number and could just call my grandpa to jump in the car and get me. He would have too, even though he lived 700 miles away.

  • He loved children. As a little old man who bore a passing resemblance to Pope John Paul II, he got away with a lot and was known to pick up strangers' babies who held up their arms to him in restaurants and grocery stores. When I was trying to describe to my mom how much Ethiopians doted on Norah and Atticus when we were traveling with them in Ethiopia, I explained that it was like having a country full of my grandpa.

  • My grandma wasn't supposed to know, but he sent me shushkis (envelopes with notes and spending money) regularly.

  • He and my grandma were married for 64 years. He would regularly stop by the side of the road when he saw wild tigerlilies or sweetpeas and cut her a bouquet.

  • As a former funeral director, he taught me how to apply makeup using samples in drugstores while we waited for my mom and grandma to finish their shopping.
  • Another professional perk: He maintained an excellent relationship with his local Lincoln dealer and they always called him up when they had a good deal. For my college graduation he gave me his Lincoln Town Car. A few years later, Paul and I had to replace Paul's car. I knew if I mentioned this to my grandfather he would give us another car. We wanted to be grownups who took care of our own needs; we quietly purchased a Toyota Corolla. When my grandpa found out about it a month later, he bought himself a new car and promptly drove the old one out for us to have. Until the day we traded those two Town Cars in, I kept finding little vestiges of my grandpa tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the cars: plastic bags rolled and rubber-banded into the tiniest of squares, stray cigars and an ancient pack of Marlboros that he never would have smoked but probably was given and kept "just in case" he ran into someone who wanted them, silk flowers pinned to the sun visors, a bobble-head Jesus...
  • He loved dogs and horses. He kept sugar cubes in the car for horses he came across. The neighborhood dogs used to stop by to visit him for treats.
  • When Paul announced he would be moving to my college town to be closer to me, my grandpa's first words were "Keep your pants zipped."
  • He loved checking up on people and making the rounds. He had a long list of daily stops (the city mission to help serve food, the grocery store to see what he could see, the newspaper store, my mom's cousins' house next door when we were at the lake to find out what people were up to and what was in the candy jar...).
  • I lived with my grandparents every summer when I was growing up. Sometimes after evening meetings, he would wake me up with a coffee Fribble from Friendly's.
  • He didn't get much time with Atticus and Norah, but he was delighted by watching them swim and getting a chance to hold them.
  • He was absolutely the best grandfather anyone could ever wish to have.


Andrea Turpin said...

I'm crying for you. I already knew how close you were, but this post really expressed it well. Grandparents are manna from heaven, and I miss all four of mine very much. I am thinking of you, sweetie.

~S said...

I'm so sorry, Betsy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

lindsay said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your love for your grandfather shines.

Lisa said...

I'm so sorry about your grandpa. He sounds like a wonderful man.

~Binah from ADL

Christina said...

He sounds like such a wonderful man (and Grandpa!). Your family will certainly be in our thoughts and prayers.

Ed said...

Dad would have loved to read your comments today they were diffently wrote with a lot of love.
Uncle Eddie

Laurie said...

Thanks so much for sharing this.

Beverly said...

so sorry for your loss.

John Gensic said...

Jenna and I are sorry for your loss. I am sure he would appreciate your sharing.

Linda said...

Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Annette said...

Sorry to learn of your Grandpa's passing. Your family will be in our prayers at St. Al's. It is wonderful, though, that your Grandpa got to meet your children. No doubt he will be watching over you all, and maybe even picking one of you up from time to time, when reaching out in need (spiritually).


Sharon said...

Hi Betsy and Paul - Today is All Saint's Sunday and your grandpa is one of them! Susan and my mom were here in CT with us for the weekend. We all know a lot of what you are going through right now! Jim and I send lots of love to you - I have lost your snail mail address - can you email it to me? (

Caroline said...

He sounds like a really amazing Grandfather. What a ton of great stories Atticus and Norah will have about him growing up.

Alexandra said...

That is an absolutely lovely tribute. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.