I haven’t written in a while because I just could not be moved to do so. My family recently said our goodbyes to my grandfather, and we just celebrated his life with family and friends who came to pay their respects at his wake and funeral.
I think my 4-year-old nephew explained it best to his grandma, saying, “Yes, Great-Grandpa is dead, but it’s okay, he’s up in heaven now driving his tractor.” My other nephew, almost 2 years old, who shares my grandpa’s name as a middle name (Mark), just sprung into the arms of my mom for a big hug after she sang a beautiful song during the funeral mass. It is amazing how little ones just know to provide love and comfort during difficult times.
I’d like to share just a few of the MANY memories and stories of my grandpa to honor his 85 years on this earth:
He truly was part of the “silent generation” that shared core values of hard work, respect for authority, loyalty, understood sacrifice and the value of a dollar. He worked as a farmer for almost 50 years before retiring.
He was one of 12 children – one sister died at a young age – so there were 11 total children. They grew up on a farm with everyone helping out and working hard.
He could speak German, learning it from his parents and grandparents. They would usually speak German when they didn’t want the kids to understand what they were saying. He would re-tell us some of the naughty words that he heard, like “die verdammte Kinder!”
He was a great student, walking quite a distance to school (probably uphill both ways WITHOUT complaint). I remember that he told me about taking classes in farming in high school and more classes about business after high school. He excelled in school, actually passing up his older brother, a stubborn joker, who would NOT mind their teachers, moving ahead of him in grade levels.
He didn’t like to dance, so he let his my grandma dance with his brothers, so he “wouldn’t have to push her around the dance floor.” Really Grandpa? You said that?!! Kuddos to Grandma for still dancing!
When my grandparents were married in 1950, my grandma moved to his farm, where he had led the life of a bachelor for several years. He only had 1 fork and 1 spoon, and when he made her eggs, he first gave her the spoon. My grandma refused to use the spoon, so he let her have the fork! My grandma just laughs at this memory and shakes her head every time she retells it. She truly was the one who made their house a home!
He liked joking around and telling stories – often while sitting on the side of the room at family gatherings, just talking one on one with another relative. He made our significant others – the newcomers – feel so welcome. I always liked it when he did something to make Grandma say, “MARK!” in her disapproving, scolding tone. Grandpa’s eyes would get really big, he’d raise his shoulders and cross his arms, and say, “I’m in trouble!”
He loved playing cards – sheepshead – during which brandy slush would be served.
He had some amusing expressions like “slower than molasses in January.” Apparently, they would pour molasses on the hay as a treat for the cows. With Wisconsin winters, it certainly poured slowly for several months of the year.
I was so blessed to have shared so many years with him. Visiting Grandma & Grandpa’s farm while growing up was always a new adventure: playing with the kitties in the barn, petting the calves and seeing the big cows, climbing around the hay mow, sledding and snowmobiling in winter too. He was there for so many milestones in my life – graduation, wedding, and the births of my two children. I will always cherish these memories and keep his legacy alive for my own family. Love you always Grandpa!