February 23, 2013

For My Grandpa

As grandpa's 4th grandchild, I've only been alive for a smaller, and perhaps, more insignificant part of his life. I never got to experience grandpa's life in Costa Rica, Mountain View or even hear the lectures of his brother Walter that were so inspiring and formative for my parents' generation. I only shared a limited part of my grandpa's life. My 31 years are less than half of the 65 years my grandparents have been happily married. My memories of grandpa revolve around the silly things of grandkids; running rampant with cousins, bathing in their giant round bathtub, swinging our little cousins in blankets, going to zoos, water parks, and most notably, just enjoying the attention of our adoring grandma and grandpa. 
Being just 1 of 8 grandkids, I never felt far removed from the center of my grandparents' universe. A soft place to land and proud of any of our accomplishments, my grandpa and grandma are our loyal fans. Traveling up cumbersome roads to visit us in eureka (a 14 hr car trip back then) didn't keep my grandma and grandpa from participating in any minor milestones in my life: our 8th grade graduations, high school, college, holidays, weddings and special family celebrations - my grandpa was there, "with bells on"! Always proud to bask in the atmosphere of our tight-knit family and his high-energy and often awkward grandkids.
Not just a loving grandpa, MY grandpa is a unique person and shares many of the quirks I adore in my father. Always the scholar - with the largest vocabulary of any person I've encountered- Grandpa effortlessly uses words like "confiscatory" when a simple "unfair" may have sufficed.
One of my very favourite memories with grandpa was playing the board game Balderdash. Instead of just up silly, fake meanings to these obscure vocabulary words, Grandpa would ruin the game by almost always knowing the words and could regale us with the Latin or Greek roots for the words. My Grandpa's wide array of interests, knowledge and curiosity have inspired me to learn more in my life, expand my horizons and to network and learn from a wide array of people I encounter.
What really personified my grandpa was his graciousness. He was full of gratitude for any simple and heartfelt gestures. For instance, this last Father's Day,  I sent grandpa a simple photo postcard. It may have even arrived a few days late and featured a photo of me with my girls and simply said "We love you Great-Grandpa". The next day I talked to Grandpa on the phone and he exuded about the gesture, the photo, the sentiment and the joy it brought him. He told me "I wasn't able to sleep early this morning, but I was thrilled to remember your card again, sitting by my bed, when I woke up. I got up and went to the other room just to admire the photo of my gorgeous girls".
The admiration and joy my grandpa has for children is self-evident in the photos I've seen of him with all of his grandkids. In the photos I've combed through of Grandpa, he can be found looking adoringly at his great-granddaughters, fully immersed in their activity, their emotions and amazed at the gift of their existence and joy. I don't think I will ever be able to edit photos of my daughters without thinking about which photos I HAVE to share with great-grandpa. The girls have been blessed to have his love, affection and pride, that they've earned simply by being a part of great-grandpa's life.
The three great-granddaughters are intent on the strawberry-rhubarb pie and candles as we sang to Grandpa on his 89th birthday last April. 
Even though I'm broken-hearted, I am proud of my close-knit family, of my loving and accomplished aunts, uncles and cousins. I feel that my Grandpa's love and lifetime commitment to Grandma and to our families has been a foundation for our successes and life's happiness. I hope to honor Grandpa's legacy of valuing education, hard work and to continue his ever-present gratitude and enjoyment of all the small and large blessings I life.
I love and miss you Grandpa and hope we meet again soon. Love, Kirsti