I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen for about 20 minutes now. I’m not sure what to say. How do you honor someone you’ve known literally your entire life? I am so lucky to have had two living grandparents at the age of 34. Grandpa Jim passed away on Wednesday, November 8th. I wouldn’t say it was unexpected- he was 92 and had recently entered hospice- but it is still heartbreaking. I can’t even think about being in my grandmother’s shoes without tearing up. Grandma Sue had been married to Grandpa for longer than anyone I know. He was her partner, her other half. I imagine losing him feels a lot like losing a part of your body. But I suppose that is the downside to that- being so lucky to have your husband by your side for over 70 years. The hole he leaves behind is pretty big.
Grandpa Jim served in WWII. It blows my mind that he fought in a war like that. When he came home, he married my grandma, went to Ohio University, and became a science teacher. In all my memories of him he had already retired, but the teacher part of him never quit. He would always ask me to pass the salt at the dinner table by calling it “NaCl,” and I still remember the scientific name for starfish because of him. He was so smart. He could solve the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune way before any of the contestants did. He had a bank of trivia knowledge that rivaled Kirk’s (and that is saying something). I know he was pretty proud of me for everything I did in school and in my career.
Grandpa was so many things. He played the clarinet and loved big band music. He had an amazing woodworking shop in the basement, which he’d let the grandkids play in. I can still smell the sawdust and hear the loud noises of the machines while he was working. He taught me how to hammer a nail straight, and without getting my fingers in the way. We would go down in the basement and nail random pieces of scrap wood together, and thought it was SO FUN. I always wanted to head down to the basement first thing when we got to my grandparents’ house. For most of my life, anytime I needed something framed, I sent it to Grandpa. I never knew how expensive it was to have something framed until a few years ago, because Grandpa always did it for me. Once Christmas all I wanted was a wooden cutout of an oak leaf (I know, I was a weird kid) and he made it for me. Another year he made me a jewelry box, which I still use. He built beds for us when we were little and helped my dad finish my little brother’s room while my mom was in the hospital when Andy decided to arrive a bit earlier than expected.
Grandma and Grandpa used to own a vacation house in Pennsylvania in a little community called “Treasure Lake.” We would go there several times each summer and go fishing, horseback riding, look for deer (at the time still a novelty to my Parma-raised self), and catch salamanders in the creek behind the house. I didn’t love catching fish- I preferred to bring bread to feed them instead – but once in a while Grandpa would bait my hook for me (I refused to touch the worms) and help me catch a fish. Then I also refused to take it off the hook so he did that too, and tossed it back in the lake. He would get so annoyed that my brother, sister and I continually got our hooks stuck on rocks and tangled our fishing lines, but I think he still had a good time with us.
Grandpa also loved ice cream and peanut m&m’s. I mean, LOVED them. There’s a story that Grandpa approved of my dad once he found out that Dad’s favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan (which is such a dad flavor, right?). I can picture the two of them sitting on Grandpa’s porch swing when my mom was dating my dad, talking about ice cream. Obviously, I wasn’t around yet, but this is how it played out in my head.
It would be a disservice to say I can sum up someone’s 92 years within a blog post. I simply cannot. I have such great memories of him because he was so involved with my life. He and my grandmother attended birthdays, plays, music concerts, graduations, nearly every school event. He knew many of my friends growing up. I loved him so, so much. I’m so thankful that he got to meet and know my children. I know Sydney is too little to remember him, but I think Reid will. Reid pointed out that now Grandpa Jim is in heaven with Duncan (whom Grandpa liked a lot). And that’s exactly what our family believes. That Grandpa is with God, and he’s free from the pain he suffered toward the end of his life.
Grandpa- I love you and miss you.