Thursday, November 6, 2008


Sorry about the light posting, but the great man I've referred to on here as "my other conservative grandpa" suffered a severe stroke and a minor heart attack two weeks ago and passed away Sunday morning. I was able to fly and drive out to visit him last weekend, but was unable to attend his funeral yesterday morning. I'm finally to the point where I can talk about him without balling my eyes out (most of the time), so I thought I'd say a few things.

First, above all else, my grandfather was a farmer with a poet's heart. Lorraine, a friend of the family, received from my grandma the poem he'd written for her birthday a few weeks before while she was at the hospital. She and Grandma had a good cry reading the typical Grandpa poem with the usual reference to her nickname of "Hillary." She and her husband were "Hillary and Bill," while my grandparents were "Al and Tipper." My grandpa got such a kick out of pillorying the Clintons (much to his wife's brothers' dismay) that this year's primary battle was practically gift-wrapped just for him. Lorraine told me she had a book at home, full of Grandpa's poetry. I'm told that many of his poems were displayed at the funeral home in full glory. He passed on a bit of his poet's heart to my dad, leading to some hilarious exchanges after certain games in October (involving a blue dust pan). If you met my grandpa, you might not immediately think that a sheep farmer such as him would love coming up with clever rhymes. But having gone back to the farm out in the middle of nowhere, I can't see why he wouldn't be inspired by the pastoral scenery to craft verse. The last time I saw him, he was craning his neck to see out the window at the trees in full color. I'll never forget that.

Having grown up outside of Chicago, my grandfather had more than a passing interest in those lovable losers, the Cubbies. My father's defection to the Yankees may have solidified his passion even more, causing a good chunk of the monthly calls to the farm to be back-and-forth between the two, especially late in the year. When my brother moved out on his own, the tradition continued between them. Grandpa was a faithful NL fan, always rooting for whatever team they put in for the World Series. The day I left the hospital, I was telling him about the last game of the World Series this year, that it had been rain delayed and the Phillies might win the series. "We'll root for the Phillies, won't we, Grandpa?" I asked. In reply, he nearly broke my hand squeezing it. He always kept the faith, saying "There's always next year" when his Cubbies would go home in defeat. As a gift, my uncle carved a bear cub wall hanging out of several diffent woods with that phrase on the back. I teased my grandpa about "picking a winning team," but I do wish the Cubs had pulled it off this year, of all years.

He was a staunch conservative, even when (or maybe because) it drove his wife's family nuts. I've told the story here about what he thought of Fred Thompson, and I'm reminded of how much he admired "Ronnie" Reagan. I think the cesspool of Illinois politics offended his common-sense approach to life and helped cement his firm place on the right. Even in his age, he never stopped keeping up on politics (a real feat, given the daily indictments at the local level), and it rubbed off on my grandma, who asked that the TV in the hospital waiting room be turned to FoxNews. He'd be glad to know his family, despite the timing of his funeral, was able to cast their ballots in absentia (almost all to the right).

What I'll miss more than anything is simply the way he said things. He called my grandmother either "Mother" or "Grossmutter" (the latter when she wasn't listening). I was "Sadie-doo" or "Squirrelly" until I went to college. Even after that, he'd catch himself calling me the nicknames that I can't even remember the origins of. He, like Grandma, knew German, but neither of them used it often. Whether that's a legacy of the second World War or not, I'll never know. His humor was inherited by us all, and when all his children and some of their children were in the waiting room, more often than not we were having a good laugh.

These are just some of my impressions of my grandpa. Words really can't describe the images I've been thinking on the last few days: seeing him work on the farm, riding his Minneapolis Moline tractor, being swarmed by grandchildren (and later great-grandchildren), hooking in my nephews with his cane, and the sly grin on his face in throwing two surprise birthday parties for my grandma.

I'm going to miss you, Grandpa.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, cousin. Wish you were coming up for Christmas, but since y'aren't, I'll just say "Merry Christmas" here. Merry Christmas!