Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Dear Grandpa,
I don't know just what to say or exactly where to start, so I'll start with this. I miss you. It's been 15 years since you died, and I miss you more now than I did then. When you died, I was only 11. We didn't live very close, so I only got to see you around Christmas and the summer, usually. I don't remember much about those trips, other than playing in the park, or with my cousins in the church basement. I remember that you were there, but that's about all. I don't remember any conversations that we may have had or things that you said. I wasn't old enough to really appreciate your sense of humor, but everyone says you were full of it...uh, humor, that is.  

Therefore, most of what I know is not what I remember, but what I have learned about you from others. The stories that I have heard are too few and far between, but they are enough to know some of the important things about who you are. I know that you are quiet and soft-spoken and that when you told a joke, it was often delivered in such a way that it took a moment for it to register. I know that you suffered from a devastating illness, but you rarely complained. And I know that your faith was the most important thing in your life, and then your family. 

I know certain facts about you. I know that you lived most of your life in a small town in the Midwest. I know that you fought in World War II in the Pacific. I know that your mother had a stroke and was bedfast for several years before she died, but that like you, she didn't complain. I know that you and Grandma got to know each other mostly through letters. If I remember correctly, a mutual friend passed on your respective addresses to each other. You were married out West, and came home to raise three kids. I know that you lived on the family farm, and raised cows. You also worked in the factory at Centerville making church furniture. You never had much money, but everyone was always fed and clothed. I also know that you enjoyed taking everyone on family vacations. Dad has mentioned trips to the Rockies, to Yellowstone and the Black Hills. I think that he said you didn't plan much, because then you could stop and see whatever point of interest presented itself. Every year you went to the "Biblesta" Parade in a nearby town, and really enjoyed seeing the Bible celebrated and honored in that way. I also know that every Memorial Day you were a big part of the town's celebration to honor and remember the veterans. 

I know a couple of family anecdotes. There is a favorite story in the family about the time that someone called the house looking for Grandma. The caller asked for the the second in command. You replied, 'Speaking.' I have also heard a story that when you were little, some sparks came out of the chimney and landed on the roof of the house. You walked out to where your parents were in the barn and calmly mentioned that the house was on fire, sending them in a panicked dash for the house. When you were working at the furniture factory, a church once asked for a cross to be made, but they wanted one that was rough, like what Jesus had. You put a lot of time into that one, carefully scarring it and chipping at the wood. I wish I knew where that church was that has that cross, because I know that you considered it one of the most important things that you made. The quote that I have heard is that you said 'My most important work of construction was a work of destruction.' Those are the stories that I remember hearing. I don't know if I have all the facts straight, but that's as close as I can come.  

There are some things that I don't know. I don't know exactly what your response was when my aunt joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints or when Dad became a Catholic. I don't know, but I have a guess. My guess is that your main concern was that your family grow closer to God, whatever church they may join. I think this, because it is what I have witnessed at all of our family gatherings. We know that our beliefs aren't exactly the same, but when we get together, that isn't what matters. What matters is our faith in God and the love of each other.  

Most of what I know is through the stories of others, but I do have two particular memories of you to call my own. One is a trip where you and Grandma came up to Iowa to visit, probably when one of my sisters was born. I remember running into the dining room and seeing you sitting at the table reading the Bible. I don't remember if either of us said anything at the time, but I know that it made a huge impression on me. I was so impressed that the Bible was so important that you would make a special point to read it every day, and that you would even pack it and bring it with you on trips to read it. I have come to treasure God's Word, and that memory plays such a large role in what the Bible has come to mean to me. I think of you every time I pack my Bible when I'm going on a trip. 

The other thing that I remember is one Christmas at the Community Center in Centerville. Again, I don't specifically remember any words that were said, but I know that I was coming up to give you a hug in greeting. I just remember the look on your face and the love in your eyes. At the time, I think that I ran off to go play with my cousins; I don't think that I really recognized what I saw, but I still remember it.  

I wish that I could talk with you now. I want to have a conversation with you and get to know you myself. I wish I could experience your particular brand of humor first hand. Still, if I could only have two brief memories, I don't think that I could pick a better legacy. It's so fitting that I don't remember any spoken words when everyone said that you were such a quiet man, and what I do remember about you is your love of God and of family. I thank God for you, Grandpa, and I love you.

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