12 September 2006
My grandpa passed away last night. My dad called this morning to tell me. Memories and images have been playing in my mind. So, in memory of:
My grandpa was born in the Bay Area to an immigrant father and orphaned mother. He grew up poor... I love the stories he told of the racially diverse neighborhood where he was raised--color and race didn't matter to him.
Grandpa's dad died when he was 12. He quickly became the 'man of the house' for his mom and younger sister--a caring responsible man who would have those qualities for the rest of his life.
My grandparents met in high school. They attended the largest high school in the Bay Area. They had friends who were dating and thought that Art and Jeanette would be perfect for each other. So, they arranged a meeting: Each year their school hosted "Hello Day" in an effort for the students to better know each other. The rules were that you had to shake hands and introduce yourself to anyone with whom you came into contact that you didn't already know. So, Grandpa's friend arranged to meet him by the 5th floor garbage can at lunch, and Grandma's friend made the same plans. The friends never showed, and the rest is history. Every year, on the anniversary of "Hello Day" my grandpa would send my grandma roses with a card that read "Hello again."
Grandpa spent most of WW II at home, serving as an air raid warden and in other wartime positions. He had a bad knee, so he was passed by when the draft board made their decisions. When, in 1945, the notice came, he was excited to go--so excited that Grandma didn't tell him she was pregnant with baby #3. She knew that he could (and would) petition to stay home since he had three children, so she kept it to herself.
Grandpa was on a ship in the middle of the Pacific when the war ended. He spent his time as part of the occupation forces in Japan. He rebuilt cities and helped children and families to begin healing. He always felt that he hadn't done his part--guilty that he stayed home while his friends lost their lives and left families behind.
When he came home he told Grandma he had seen what war could do to children in cities, so he wanted to move his family to the country. They spent a few years looking, and found a farm in southern Oregon. Rural life was a change for them. Grandpa always had a full-time job--he was an accountant--the farm (or later the ranch) was way of life for the kids. A place for them to learn responsibilty and the value of hard work.
This was how I grew up. We had a house on my grandparents ranch. We worked hard and loved the land. By the time my siblings and I came Grandpa was retired. We spent our summers in the hay fields, building fences, stopping in at Grandma's for cookies and riding into town with Grandpa for a stop the Co-op (that's the Farm Bureau in Douglas County, Oregon) and a burger at the Owl Restaurant before coming home.
Grandma and Grandpa Sweetie were very supportive of us. They came to our band concerts, our soccer games, Grandparents Day at school, and special school and church occasions. I always knew that Grandpa was proud of me. When I chose to go to BYU he told me that it was the "only school where a kid could get a conservative education in this nation!" That was quite a compliment coming from him.
My grandparents weren't members of the Church, but they always respected our beliefs and values--Grandpa especially. When my dad was called to be a bishop he sat down with Grandpa and explained to him that this calling was going to require a lot of time. He wanted to talk about what that meant for the ranch since he was mostly running by that time. My grandpa told him that he should meet his family and church committments first, and the ranch responsibilities would be taken care of.
It's this kind of personal integrity, kindness, and committment to family that I want for my children. Grandpa's passing makes it even more important to me that while we are undecided on the first name for baby#3, we have always planned on his middle name being Lewis--my grandpa's middle name.
I laid in bed this morning and remembered sitting on Grandpa's lap while he napped in his arm chair. I would lean my head against his chest, listen to his heart and try to slow my breathing to match the rhythm of his.... Now I pray that I can have a heart as generous and large as his, and that the cadence of my life might be as pure and noble.