Jan 15, 2015

Remembering My Grandparents

Smells are a funny thing; they have an ability to take us back to the recesses of our memories and remind us of events and of loved ones after so many years. Coffee grounds remind me of the worm box at Forest Lake, Minnesota where my maternal grandparents had a lake cabin at which I spent many summers as a young boy. Pipe tobacco…the smell of a lake…gasoline from a boat engine…and bullheads…all remind me of my grandparents and I hope to bring these memories to you.
I miss my grandpa Richard even right now as I write these words. He was a good man, loving, laughing, and fun to be with. I felt safe with him no matter where we were. I loved the smell of the cabin and equally his home that smelled like pipe tobacco and a fireplace. He loved to hunt pheasant and other waterfowl and loved to fish.
He was, as I look back, one of the first men or persons that I know that I loved and felt loved by. He wore glasses even though he didn’t even need them to be able to see! Occupationally, he was a salesman of some sort; at least that is what I recall that he did because I never really knew him that way; except for the Cadillac that he drove.
I remember that I always liked being with him; no matter what we were doing. I remember taking row boat rides with him and sitting in lawn chairs watching water skiers on the Fourth of July. I remember taking walks with him at the lake for many reasons including taking egg shells and coffee grounds to his worm box, looking for mushrooms to eat for breakfast, or to simply show me something in nature and teach me about it.
I remember sitting alongside of him in the living room of my parent’s house as together we looked through a large picture window across the street as he pointed out to me the variety of ducks and other wildlife that he was able to see.
I remember his workshop in his home and drill press and the smell of “cutting oil”. He always made me feel welcome in his shop. He was an artist who worked in a variety of materials including carving wood, making rings from stones, making sculptures from found objects such as driftwood and walnuts, and from metal.
He had leukemia for around thirteen years and got it when he was an old man. He gave his body to the University of Minnesota while he was still alive to be used to test new medicines in an effort to find a cure for this type of cancer that takes so many young children.
His death was a pivotal defining moment in my life that caused me to become a very angry person; angry at God for taking him away from me when he died when I was in junior high school. I wasn’t ready to let go of this great man; who would’ve made a great mentor to me as an artist.
His wife’s (my grandmother) name was Stella. And she was a very good person to have for a grandmother. She was full of smiles and love and life. I like being with her as well. I especially remember the great Christmases we would have at her home. The presents were piled up to the ceiling; at least that is how they looked to someone my age!
I think of her whenever I smell down pillows or cedar chests or see quilts. The house also contained the smells of her great cooking. I can still see tables piled high with food. I think of her whenever I smell baked beans with Lima beans.
I loved staying overnight at the cabin and at their house because she too always made me feel welcomed. She liked gardens. She was a great grandmother who would insist that I put BOTH sugar and honey on my corn flakes when we would stay with her. I still put honey on my cornflakes today in memory of her love for me.
She had a good sense of humor and let us tease her and play tricks on her; like changing name tags that we wore for her benefit as she got older. She liked gardens and flowers and her yards always looked nice. She was ALWAYS dressed up in a classy way. I still remember the smell of her perfume; but don’t ask me because I can’t recall the name of it.
She died around one year after my grandpa; the doctor told us that it was due to the fact that she missed her husband so very much. When she was alive she told me that oftentimes she could still “hear his voice” and could almost see him even though he wasn’t there.
Their impact on my life is part of the impetus for me to be a outstanding grandfather to my grandchildren; for me to love as I was loved.  I am grateful to be able to share them with you today.

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