Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bleu Cheese, Brill Cream, and Beech-Nut

Every month, every year, every generation... we lose someone special. Many of the greatest people I've known are no longer around, but they live on because of the impact they've made on our lives.

My Grandpa Wolf was one of those people, and above all else, he exemplified what it takes to be the patriarch I aspire to be.

I was blessed to have meaningful years with all of my grandparents. I was doubly-blessed to be raised less than a mile from each set.

My relationships with each one were incredibly unique, just as their personalities were (and are) truly one-of-a-kind.

Grandpa Wolf was a career railroader, but to me, he was the ultimate salesman. You could spend ten minutes with the guy and he'd have you so interested in something, that if you were told you'd have a conversation about said subject matter three hours prior, you'd be lifting your jaw off your chest.

Every grandson needs answers and my grandpa was readily available to assist... although his recollections were slightly biased or stretched or completely made up on-the-fly (if only Snopes were available in 1987).

Many grandfathers would think their offspring were slightly off if they were ever told that their hairstyle resembled that of one Millard Fillmore (13th president of the US), that they could always find you in a crowded department store by looking for the guy resembling Cary Grant (from behind), and catching that same grandson opening his pouch of tobacco so he could smell it... all at the age of six.

My grandpa never asked 'why' I was always perusing through his road atlases, AAA Trip-Tiks, and National Geographics.... he encouraged it. As I 'matured' from' nerdy' ventures, he provided me my first harmonica and loaned me my first six-string. Bought me the Mel Bay books, always allowed me to accompany him in his Chrysler of the year on his many treks to Lima (his motherland), and helped me with some of my most gut-wrenching purchasing decisions.

July 7. 1991: I had a fresh twenty to spend from my birthday the day before. We started the morning with a coffee (black, of course), sat at the kitchen bar, finished the crossword, and after sitting at Hartman Auto Sales (Westminster, OH) for what seemed like weeks... I was trotted into the Sears store at the Lima Mall. Always one for safety, Grandpa convinced me I needed a light for my BMX bike. The contraption was a wheel-generatror-mechanism that may have been assembled all of three days on my wheels.

I can honestly say, that's the only piece of bad advice I ever got from the guy. Truth be told, I could have bought fourty packs of Topps at the pharmacy and OD'd on the bubble gum for weeks. (I'm quick to forgive, but have the memory of an elephant).

A few years later, I received a questionable flat top. Never one to critique style, Grandpa took me to his upstairs bathroom and presented me with a mini-tub of Brill Creme, which I'm pretty sure had an expiration date sometime in the late '60's.

The years of my life suddenly started accelerating when his began slowing down. Those summertime trips to Lima were replaced by pop-in's and prom picture visits. My lazy days of boredom were no longer, but my love remained. Along with the annual birthday phone calls, I always did my best to represent him at 'his' family functions.

Unconditional love makes you step out of your element. I recall many of us all doing something 'for' grandpa, whether it was listening to a twenty minute dissertation on the Dorsey Brothers, watching a Buckeye game with him while he paced the floor, or simply being patient with him in his waning years as he drifted from one topic to the next.

The best thing that comes out of death is the ability for us all to see the mark that they not only made on our lives, but those of others. As I stood at the casket of an octogenarian, I expected to see friends of my family, neighbors, and churchgoers. I didn't expect to see childhood friends make a journey together, old co-workers reminiscing, and an honor guard of his peers... but I did.

I'm guilty of wanting my dear son to replicate the same relationship I did with all of my fantastic grandparents. Only now do I realize that it's with my parents and in-laws, and it's just me being selfish.

Reflecting over the past, I received many subtle gifts from each and every grandparent. I don't really care for Bleu Cheese, but eat it because Grandpa Wolf did. I drink a black coffee every day and tip my cup to Grandpa Conley. I geek out over thunderstorms on the horizon thanks to Grandma Conley. I'm brutally honest with loved ones and equally empathetic and patient because of Grandma Wolf.

Our time with everyone is limited.... our memories are eternal.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss.
    Beautifully written and oh so true!