I have no recollection of a first meet. But I can imagine the impression ran along the lines of the impressions that remain. He was an old man, by my 20 year old standards, nearer to his 70th birthday than any other. Graying hair, wizened tanned skin, well worn lines of worry, happiness, angst, love, knowledge worn in pathways on his face. His eyes sparkled, that’s surely true. His clothing was that of the retired gentleman rancher, his current passion. Plaid shirt, tatty denims, manure caked shoes, a hat on his head. Not a stetson as you might imagine, but a stained and worn baseball cap. Perhaps his wife complained of farm smell or dirty shoe tracks, but me, I found it charming indeed. Here was a man who knew the power of a hard day’s work, the strength of character that comes from following through, the joy of having a passionate hobby.
This man I would soon learn to call Grandpa.
My husband’s father’s father was a reserved and quiet man. Making assumptions now I might call him an introvert. He kept his thoughts in his head but his words, once spoken, were always kind.
I have great memories of him.
Such as the road trip he and I took from Southern Utah to the northern parts of the state. I don’t remember much about the reasons why we climbed into a car together but I do remember the hours of conversation on the road. We spoke about love and family, about music, about life and loss. His loss in particular was a running thread in our exchange, shuttling back and forth our impressions and stories of remembrance of his wife, Lucille, who had just weeks before said her goodbyes and slipped away from him into death. The words and memories creating pictures, he weaved the tales seamlessly together as we listened to cassette tapes in the car stereo of her favorite music. 20-something me and 60-something him laughed and cried together over tales of the woman he loved and I barely knew. 20 years on now I recognize my own loss in losing her so early. My path into education may well have been coached along by this long time, caring, well-adored school teacher whom Grandpa loved to distraction.
There is also the moment in time when a calf born early on a cold Utah Christmas eve day caught the eye and attention of this compassionate man. As he rallied the team of grandkids and son to try and save this newborn, it was impossible to miss the love he had for his hobby and for this creature of earth. This rescue mission included a trip home in the back of the pickup to warm the calf up in a bath. We petted and patted and worked to warm the body of Grandpa’s baby so he could take her back to the mother at the ranch. He called her Eve.
Past the ranching, there were other passions. A deep need and desire to trace the roots of his family back to the beginning of time; a love to travel the world and share his faith with others; a project to visit each of the cities holding the temples of his religion which he held dear. And through it all, all these 20-something years I’ve known him, all the 90-something years of his life, I believe there was one motivating passion which fueled his every move.
And at the heart of it, that’s all there is.
We lost a gentleman today, true to his core, a gentle man.
I love you, Grandpa.
I remember you.