So....where were we?
Since you last heard from me, I started my new job, got pushed into a slightly different job, celebrated an anniversary, started school, and lost a grandparent. And that's just the big stuff.
I want to talk about my grandfather a little.
That's my grandpa. I love this picture because I really feel it captures his personality. Music, teaching, volunteering, and his family were his life. He always had a joke for you and a funny story. He experienced a lot in his life, he was a WWII vet, a high school teacher for years, raised 7 kids, and volunteered his time to those less fortunate pretty much up to the day he passed away.
Read this article to get a little insight into the incredible man I was lucky to have in my life. His story is a love story. He married my grandmother 62 years ago and they were still as in love on the day he died as they were the day they married. As an extremely intelligent and highly educated man, one of his passions was reading. Due to failing eyesight, it became almost impossible for him to read toward the end, so my grandmother read to him every single day. They did the crossword puzzle together every day without fail, even though he had the disadvantage of not being able to see. He was also able to do the Jumble in his head. Intelligent? No. Genius. Until the day he died, my grandma took care of him without question. After 62 years of marriage, they still held hands and danced at parties. They still said “I love you” every day to each other. Their marriage is the kind that gives me hope that love really can last forever.
He was my step-mother’s father, and I met him when I was about eight (?) years old. For a long time, every time we went to their house, I would run at him full speed and he’d kneel down and catch me and swing me up in the air. I worshipped him and I was his oldest/first grandchild. We shared a passion for reading, and one of the first times I was taken to their house, he took me down to the basement where is “office” was and we looked at his hundreds of books. Then he took me into his bedroom where hundreds more books resided. Earlier this week, after the funeral, I asked my grandma if I could have a book. I didn’t care which one – I just wanted one of his books. I took Major Crises in American History, Volumes I and II, published in 1962. Grandpa had a passion for history and I knew it would make him happy that someone had those books.
He spoke fluent Italian, among several other languages. He volunteered almost every day of his life and was always giving back to the community. He worked with thousands of students to instill a love of learning and with hundreds of immigrants who were trying to fulfill their dream of being an American citizen. He was a musical genius. He could pick up an instrument and just play it. He always had a story for you, and most of them were hilarious. His jokes were legendary. His favorite place in the world was his back deck. I sat out on his deck a few times when I was home for the funeral - tears running down my face, and remembering.
He had surgery almost a year ago for cancer. Through all of that, he kept his sense of humor and optimism intact. On July 21, he was out shopping with my grandma and fell. (As a side note, grandma and grandpa decided they wanted to get some new t-shirts and matching pajama pants. They were out shopping and not only did they find some matching pajama pants, but they were on sale AND grandma had a rebate! Well, I like to say grandpa was so excited, he couldn’t even stand up.) He hit his head and suffered a brain injury. He was in the hospital for five weeks, and home for a week before passing away. He died just the way he wanted to, at home, surrounded by his wife and children.
His funeral was beautiful. I told Tim when I got home that it was the first time I’ve ever sat in church, hoping the service wouldn’t come to an end. One of my cousins sang, another read, and my sister also read. My aunt did the eulogy and it was beautiful – it made us laugh and cry, which is what we were doing all week. There were hundreds of people at both the wake and the funeral. So many people whose lives he touched – former students, former classmates, fellow volunteers with the Lions Club or the Legion. He is buried at the Fort Snelling cemetery. He is missed by everyone who knew him.
Our hearts are broken but he would want us to go on. So we are working on it – slowly. It’s been hard being in Arizona while the rest of my family is in Minnesota. I got back into town a couple of days ago, but all I want to do is get on a plane, go to my grandma’s house and crawl into bed with her. I am eternally grateful I was able to go up for the funeral and say my goodbyes.
If you are the type who prays, please include my family in them – especially my grandmother, as she recovers from the loss of the love of her life. As for me, I have my memories of this amazing man, and I know he lives on in all of us. One of these days, I hope to get the point where I can go more than a couple of hours without crying. He taught us all a lot about what it means to live a full life, and how to help others.