Sunday, January 8, 2017

We Will Miss You, Grandpa!

Written by my cousin, Anna, who clearly has a GIFT of words and said this during grandpa's eulogy:

"My Grandpa died yesterday. 

I wrote my fair share of obits during my brief but memorable time as a reporter. I never felt like they capture the essence of a person, and how could they? A formulaic grouping of information fact-checked by a stranger working on deadline is not the best proving ground for nuance. An obit is a record of a life but not the essence, even if all the names are spelled correctly. 

Families are complicated organisms. They take a lifetime to contemplate and understand, if that's even possible. But here are a few things about my Grandpa I will carry with me - not so much an obit but a personal perspective. 

My Grandpa was born in 1923, 3 years after his mother's right to vote was recognized. He was the second of 6 sons. He was born with a cleft palate and had a speech impediment after he learned to talk. As soon as he was able, he grew the mustache he would continue to rock for the rest of his life. He lived in the same town in mid-Missouri most of his life, only leaving his country once. He served in the U.S. Army, which took him to Japan for a year. Before he left, he purchased the farm on which his family would grow up. 

He fell for a girl from home. He was not put off by the college degree she had when he had not gone to college or that she was two years older than he was. They enjoyed almost 55 years of marriage together, and he carried her picture with him every day. She taught school, and he farmed as their family grew: 5 children, 8 grandchildren. Just before he died, their 10th great grandchild was born, and the arrival of their 11th is expected next summer. He and Grandma traveled all over the United States when their kids were young, visiting family and state capitals. This travel was done by car, with 5 kids and no electronic devices or GPS. As their kids married, those spouses and their families were welcomed as valued members of the family. After my cousins and I came along, my grandparents showed up for musicals, baptisms, football & basketball games, and graduations. He was a life-long St Louis Cardinals and Mizzou Tigers fan. Grandpa cared for my Grandma at home throughout her long battle with Parkinson's disease. They've been apart since her death in 2004. Until yesterday. 

He liked to ask my opinion about things: politics, the places I'd visited and the people I met there, the stock market. Sometimes we agreed; sometimes we didn't. But he wanted to know what I thought about things, and he knew me well enough to know I would tell him. 

My Grandpa didn't tell me about work ethic and why it matters. He showed me. He didn't explain what it was like to love someone so completely your story gets bound up in theirs, and the two cannot be separated. He showed me. He didn't discuss strength, faith,  integrity or many other qualities. He showed me. Admittedly, punctuality was never one of his strengths, but dinners can always be reheated. 

I am thankful Grandpa stayed with us as long as he did. I'm also thankful he's at peace."
Anna Nichols


My dad and uncle stripping off sod in the family cemetery
with the one-room schoolhouse in the background.

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