It was 43 years ago, and I was 10 years old. We were on a road trip to the ‘city’ with our grandparents. Back then, growing up in a small town of 3,000 people or so, the big event was to go to the city. In this case, it was Kalamazoo, MI. I’ll never forget the drive, which at that time when the speed limit was reduced to 55 mph, it took about 45 minutes to get there.
Grandpa would drive us all there in the old blue Chrysler Fury (which was a boat BTW with plastic on the seats and no seat belts to be found…). There were a lot of great memories in that car but one, in particular, was of Grandpa trying to light his pipe. He would roll the window down (no electric windows), steer with one hand, then attempt to light his match while trying to keep control going 55 mph.
After swerving around a bit, he would finally get that thing lit. What to do with that old wooden match? Throw it out the window of course. But, back then, we didn’t have air conditioning, so the back windows were open. Yes, I sat behind Grandpa (that was my spot). Within seconds, I would have a hot match flying into my lap along with the distinct aroma of Grandpa’s tobacco. Good times…
When we got home that evening from our trip to the city, we would sit around the kitchen table and play cards. Grandpa had his pipe and his small tool drawer behind him on the wall where he could pull out almost any tool to fix what was needed.
I’ve kept these memories on my shelf in my office. Grandpa was one of the most gentle, kind, and humble humans I have ever met. He worked as a parts salesman for a family-owned parts store his whole life. Everyone knew ‘Brice’. What an example for me at that age. He was always patient with my ‘acting out’ and need for negative attention. He would share his last dime with you if he could and stand up to bullies when they came around.
I wasn’t there when he passed away of dementia. But, before he passed, he had a few moments of clarity and wanted to share some things with each of his kids. He had one thing to say about me. To tell Brad, ‘everything’s going to be ok’. I knew what that meant, and I still hold onto that today.
I consider myself very blessed to have had him in my life. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had love and a lot of laughs. I look forward to catching up with him one day in heaven. So, tonight, cheers to you Grandpa! We love you…
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