Grandpa B died on February 27th 2010. Since the night I learned of his death, I have been thinking about the blog post I would write about him. The trouble is, he wasn't the sort of guy you could sum up in a paragraph or two. The best way I can even begin to tell you about him, is to begin to tell you about the many things he taught me, or at least those he tried to teach me.
Grandpa and Dad were co-conspirators in teaching my sisters and I to fish. Here I should really say trying to teach us to fish. He endured many an outing that involved my older sister setting worms free, me cutting them in half (inspired by some Judy Blume book I think), one or more squealing little girls with a flopping wet fish hanging at the end of a taut line, and, the notorious time that he took all 4 of us fishing at once. Just as my youngest sisters had their lines thoroughly tangled with one another, my older sister caught a fish, reeled it in to the "taut hanging" stage, and began the squeal for grandpa to take it off the hook and release it. Yes. Release it. We girls were a bit "animal rights" about our fishing, and didn't take kindly to the whole kill 'em and eat 'em method of fishing. He laughed at us a lot on those trips, but I don't remember him getting mad or yelling or threatening never to take us out again. At least not in front of us.
He also tried to teach me bowling and how to catch a baseball. My failures in these arenas are not to be a reflection on him, I just didn't care.
He taught me how to read a map. On the long trips between Arkansas and Nebraska he would pass my older sister and I an atlas, tell us where we were, where we were going, and all along the way he would quiz us.
"What road do we need to take next? "
"Which direction are we going now?"
"What direction will we go next?"
He taught me how to dig up potatoes, and showed me how good freshly tilled soil felt on bare feet. He taught me that vegetables fresh from the garden taste better.
He showed me what survival looked like, and that people who want to survive have to be active participants in their own healthcare. Until his last years, I never knew a man who cheated less on his diet, or worked more diligently at his own rehab than my grandfather.
He taught me to love learning. He modeled a love of learning. He read until his eyesight failed and then he moved to large print books and read until he could no longer read those either.He bought us books, and took us to every museum in the Omaha area. I never visited him that he didn't want to know all about what I was learning. Through 4 college majors, he always showed the same genuine interest in what I was learning and doing in my classes.
Most of all he taught me that I could be smart, and that I was already loved, and that whatever I had to say was worth hearing. And all of this is just the short list.... Thank you, Grandpa, you are missed!