When I think Grandpa, I do not think of a disease. I do not picture the walker, the wheelchair, or the scooter.
When I think Grandpa, I think of dimension and depth: the strength, humility, grace, work ethic, humor, diligence, and wisdom that has helped so many flourish.
I do not hear coughing, but the soft sniff-laugh you do through your nose, like there is a really funny secret between just you and me.
I do not see exhaustion, but the able body that scaled rooftops and swing-sets to fix things I didn’t even know were broken.
I do not see swollen fingers, but strong calloused hands, perennially oil stained from bike chains and automobile engines.
When I hear Grandpa, I do not hear strained speech, but the soft, thoughtful voice of a man who made the most of his words through choosing them carefully—the wise proverbial snippets, and clever catchphrases (“We’re off like a dirty shirt!”).
You see, when I think of you, Grandpa, my mind is flooded with images of gentle mischief and black coffee. Checkered button ups with pens in the pocket. I think of the extra scoop of mashed potatoes you would shovel onto my plate each Sunday dinner, and how we’d snap the Thanksgiving turkey wishbone together, but you’d always let me win, saying it meant my wish would come true.
I am reminded of the cool glasses of chocolate milk you’d serve me at the kitchen counter when you babysat, and that white T-shirt you liked to sleep in, and how you were always up when the sun rose, because, “The early bird gets the worm,” you’d tell me.
I think of the big boxes of donuts you’d bring over on Saturday mornings; the kind with chocolate on top and cream in the center, because you knew those were my favorite.
I think of blue plastic bowls filled with vanilla ice cream and strawberries; how we’d eat it after dinner while you laughed at Grandma’s novel-long stories, telling her to give the Reader’s Digest version.
I think about sitting on your lap while you mowed the lawn on your John Deere, how you’d always let me steer…then years later when you drove the colorful autumn streets with me and my permit, convincing my mom I was ready for my license.
I think of Joop cologne and swinging open the garage door, taking in breaths of your workshop with the cousins, because we loved the familiar smell of Grandpa.
I think of your kind glowing eyes; sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes grey, depending on what you wore. I think of the way they would grow bright and misty, like a soft springtime shower when you spoke of Uncle Steve at every Thanksgiving prayer.
I hear a chorus of giggles at the time you sneezed a green bean out of your nose at Thanksgiving, or the time you made ornament “earrings” at Christmas.
I think of how no matter how cold it was outside, it was warm in your heart and in your home. How you worked so hard for everything without ever uttering a complaint.
I think of the cool, teal spray of the lake tickling my skin as you would drive the boat on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or the fake margaritas you served the grandkids during happy hour, and laughing at Grandma for drinking too much Sangria on accident.
I think of sincerity—someone who knows just what to say to make me feel at home. I see a best friend, a husband, a role model, a servant, and a dad. When I think of Grandpa, I think of Grandpa.