Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Goodbye to you
On November 16, my grandfather died. That statement in and of itself is a sad one--we hate to know that we will never see people we love on this earth again. It causes us to remember good times with that person and maybe even some not-so-good times and makes us sigh and lament that life sometimes isn't fair, and nearly always ends before we are ready to say goodbye.
In this case, Grandpa Stoehr's (my mother's father) death holds a first for me. He's my first grandparent to pass away. I was very fortunate to grow up with all 4 grandparents living very close by. We would go over to their houses at least once a month, visit, and just be a family. I remember tractor rides around the property with Grandpa, scratchy haven't-shaved-in-days kisses on the neck, tickles and laughter, how he always called me "punkin" (sometimes "heifer" if I was being saucy) and how one day he looked at me and said "you sound just like your mother." One anecdote in particular I don't actually remember, but it's been told so often that I feel like I do. My parents and I drove across the country from St. Louis to Disneyland in California when I was around 3. We went in my grandparents' motor home with them and my great aunt. We had stopped for lunch one day, and my grandfather had a large bowl of strawberries that he was just sitting down to enjoy. I walked up to him and said in a very small and hopeful voice "Grandpa, are you going to eat ALL those strawberries?" It turned out the answer was no, and I got to share them with him. My mother never stopped teasing him about that.
The point is, it was always Grandpa AND Grandma Stoehr, never one without the other. I grew up thinking it was completely normal for all grandparents to be around--of course everyone has 4! I got an inkling in grade school that it wasn't, in fact, normal at all, but it wasn't until graduate school that it really hit me how unusual it was. I actually remember the exact moment when it fully sank in. We were waiting for class to start, and I mentioned I was looking forward to the holidays because it meant seeing all of my grandparents. My classmates couldn't believe that I still had all 4 at the age of 24. That's when I realized how special my time with them was.
Starting in grad school 14 years ago, I haven't lived near my grandparents. I still see them on holidays, and at other times during the year when I get a week off to travel, but it's not really the same. Those times growing up, when I was young and free of responsibility, were special. So for me, selfishly, Grandpa's death marks the end of those times. The times I can say "I have 4 living grandparents," the times when we would tease him and laugh when he got surly with us, the times we were a family.
So goodbye, Grandpa Stoehr, you will be missed.