Y’all, I really want this blog to be a positive place. This means I probably won’t mention things that stress me out or problems that I’m having. I know that there are a lot of bloggers that share that kind of stuff and it works for them, but I’ve never been comfortable voicing those sorts of things to the general public, so they probably won’t appear on my blog. That said, the last two weeks have been really rough for me. I unexpectedly lost one of my grandparents (my maternal grandfather) and between dealing with it emotionally and traveling from the DC area to the middle-of-nowhere South Dakota for the funeral and such, I’ve been absolutely drained. I haven’t said much about it to anyone, because I always end up crying (in fact, I’m already tearing up now), but I want to put down some thoughts and memories while I’m still in this healing phase, and I think this blog is a better place for it than Facebook. If you don’t feel like tearing up right about now, you might want to skip this post entirely (don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you) and I’ll have something more upbeat for you later this weekend. 🙂
I’ve always been a grandpa’s girl. I’m the pretty much the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side (technically speaking the oldest is a male cousin of mine, who we never really saw much of as he was growing up, for various reasons) and my younger sister (who is 3 years my junior) is the next oldest, so I had my maternal grandparents all to myself for a good 3 years. We lived about 5 hours from them, so I only got to visit a couple times a year, but when we were there, it was usually for a long weekend, or even a full week. When I was little, my grandparents farmed and raised sheep, and whenever we would go to visit them I would wake up at the crack of dawn to “help” my grandpa do his morning chores with the sheep. There are some pretty funny photos of me trying to pull feed buckets bigger than I am, and one in particular of me riding a large ram (male sheep) like he was a horse. I know it slowed grandpa down to have to watch over me while doing chores, but he never let on that I was doing anything other than helping. As the years went on, my grandparents got rid of the sheep and moved to a house in town where my grandpa started taking care of some horses for another person in town and I continued to ride along for chores. I like to think that I was more helpful as I got older and could actually muck stalls and measure feed.
Every day when the chores were done, we’d hop in his old pickup truck and go to the gas station in town for “coffee” with the other farmers. In my grandparent’s little town, the men all go to coffee at the gas station, and the women go to the local diner. When I was younger, I’d grab a cream soda and some candy, and sit and listen to all the farmers talk about how much rain they’d gotten that morning, or who had heard a coyote recently, and every now and then they’d ask me questions about how old I was and what I liked to do in school. As I grew up, I started drinking real coffee during these morning excursions, and while the weather and varmint talk was the same, the questions I’d get were more about what I planned to do after high school, how college was going, and most recently, how I liked law school. Grandpa loved to tell people that I was going to be a lawyer, and I even got a few calls from his coffee buddies with a legal question or two (since I had no intention of being barred in SD, I gently told each one that I couldn’t actually give them any legal advice, but I could maybe steer them toward a few resources, depending on their particular question).
My maternal grandmother passed during my first year of law school (the week before our Spring finals) and I made my first rushed trip to SD, which involved two flights and a 5 hour drive. I spent time with everyone for as long as I could, then headed back for finals. Over the next two years, I only got to see my extended family once a year. Then, after I graduated law school in 2012, I got married. At some point during my search for a wedding dress, my mom told me that my maternal grandmother’s wedding dress was still at their house, and maybe I could wear it. I had to get a tailor to let it out in a few places (my grandma was only 18 when they got married in the 50’s, and she was tiiiiiny) but once I did, it fit like a dream. It was the prefect retro style for our wedding – all over lace, strapless, with a full 50’s skirt – and it meant so much to me to have a piece of my grandma there with us. I knew my wedding day would be a bit emotional, but I never expected how hard it would be to not cry when my grandpa saw me in my grandma’s dress. It took me a good 15 minutes to get calm enough to take pictures, and I didn’t really say much to him because I couldn’t do it without crying my eyes out. He got all emotional and choked up too, but I could see on his face how much he loved me and how he was both sad and glad to see me in my grandma’s dress.
The wedding was the last time I saw him. At the funeral, I tucked a picture of us from my wedding into his casket as I said goodbye. I know I’ll always have my wonderful, loving memories of him, but letting go of someone important to you is always hard.
Moving forward, I know that there will be plenty of ways for me to remember my grandfather as I go on about my daily life. For one, he was an avid gardener who loved to share his produce with anyone who was interested. I’ve had a few small gardens over the years, and I hope to have a substantial vegetable and herb garden when we find our new house, which I’m sure will put me in mind of him. He was also a bit of a prankster, a tradition my hubby and I are already proudly continuing in our own marriage 🙂 (His favorite prank when my mom and her siblings were growing up – on their farm 20 minutes from the nearest town – was to tell all the kids to hurry up and get in the car, so they could all go to Dairy Queen. Sometimes they sat in the car in the summer heat for a loooong time before they figured out that he wasn’t coming out of the house.)
Anyone else have some unique memories of their grandparents (or aunts, uncles, or parents)?