Thursday, September 15, 2011

And That Was My Grandpa

What I would have said if I'd had time to think... and if it had been the right time and place... (which it probably wasn't)


My name is Joanne, and I'm Jim's eldest grand-daughter... by birth. I feel a little out of place here. I didn't know most of you before two weeks ago, though I knew OF some of you. And yet, we're all here, trying to celebrate the life of a man.  But, listening to people talk, I'm not sure I knew the same man you did.

I almost feel as if I'm hearing about a stranger, this paragon of virtue you praise for his prompt church attendance, self-control, and patience.  Indeed, it makes me laugh just a little because I know the past, both from experience and from story.  Maybe it's just that it's a funeral, and everything we remember is supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows, but that wasn't my grandpa.  Or at least it wasn't all of my grandpa, and it seems to be almost a disservice to not remember him as he was.

Perhaps he spent an exorbitant amount of energy in the time you knew him ranting about the "words on the wall" and how the Chinese and the Mexicans are taking over the country.  I'm not really sure where that all came from.

He didn't go to church when I knew him... and that was my grandpa.  He was raised in a sort of funky church, and by the stories I've heard, was a bit of the family's black sheep.  And I don't remember him ever attending before he got old and ranty about hymnals.

He took out his teeth to make me giggle whenever I asked... and he'd sit for hours and listen to the same terrible knock-knock jokes for hours and laugh at them every time.  And that was my grandpa.

Once, he got mad at something at the hardware store, threw handfuls of nails on the ground in a pique of temper, and stormed out of the store, leaving the poor bewildered employee to clean it all up.  That, too, was my grandpa.

There is a poem from the '60s that starts out:

Listen, my children, and you will hear
of my Daddy's great quest to go shoot a deer.
He left on a cold day in October--
He drove off in the truck, and I think he was sober.

That was my grandpa.

He was the man that taught me to drive a riding lawnmower when I was 8, taught me to watch for bird nests on the side of the road when I was 6, and saved me from the bear rug under the bed when I was 5 (and 6, and 7, and 8, and...).  And that was my grandpa.

He was the man that hooked me on to Zane Grey, though I always wondered what it was Mr Grey hated so much about the pesky Mormons that they were always the bad guys.   And that was my grandpa.

He was warm and funny and kind and good-hearted.  But, he was also impatient and quick to lose his temper.  and that was ALSO my grandpa.

He was married pre-1988 to my grandmother, and she should have been mentioned today.  Shame on you for leaving out such a large part of his life.  My mother, their only daughter, is sitting right here in the front row. They are both a part of the history that made him who he was, and it was a history that deserved to be told.

Today, maybe I'm the only one here that feels weird celebrating only a small part of who he was.  Maybe it doesn't bother anyone else that we're only praising the sunshine and the rainbows.  But my grandpa was more than just the sunshine and the rainbows.  He was whole and he was real, and I loved him for listening to my knock knock jokes just as much as I loved him for leaving my mom's aunt and uncle stranded in the middle of Arizona because he was ticked off.

It's these things that we pass on to the people we live behind.  The good and the bad of who we are... and both figure into the stories and the memories we leave in the wake of our lives. Both make us who we are, and both are important to remember because they make us REAL, and not just caricatures of virtue, prettied-up shells of our real selves.

And if I'm the only one who feels this way, so be it.  I'm not ashamed of that... I will go home with my memories and all the stories I've heard of his whole life.  I will tuck them into my heart, and remember the man that was.  All of him.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes i wish I was only the good. Thank you for letting me know the rest has worth as well. ((hugs))


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