Today would have been Grandpa's 94th birthday...but instead, like Grandma, he is finally ageless. Grandpa went home to be with Jesus (and Grandma) last September.
We grew up living about an hour away from my all of my grandparents and usually went over twice a month to visit them and many of my cousins. Oh, we loved going to Doylestown (although that trip seemed pretty long!). Growing up, I didn't know Grandpa as much as I knew Grandma. Maybe that's just the way it is with most Grandpas....kids make noise and play with each other while Grandpas often avoid the noise and keep busy elsewhere. But Grandpa still enjoyed his grandkids, and as I got older, I realized what a treasure he was. I remember one time when I stayed overnight with Grandpa and Grandma and Grandma split open a watermelon for us to share -- I'm still not sure how she did it, but the half she gave me had no seeds, and Grandpa's had more seeds than I've ever seen! Boy, did he complain! With a smile on his face....
And as time went by, he loved spending time with his grandchildren and his great-grands. He'd tease them, ask about their day, tell them stories. Susi was always a bit afraid of going near him...by the time she came along, he was usually in his chair with his oxygen tank nearby...but Luke loved talking and playing with Grandpa. Grandpa loved Luke, too, and gave him the nickname "Luke the Duke."
Grandpa was a world traveller -- going all over to visit with missionaries, take part in church meetings, and just visit friends. Argentina, Australia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Mexico, Canada, and all over the United States, just to name a few. As he got older, his common refrain before each trip was "This will probably be the last time I ever go there...." After hearing that several times before each subsequent trip to the same place, my cousins and I would just roll our eyes. Grandpa loved traveling.
It was especially fun as he would travel to Florida when I lived there then later California. I looked forward to those visits because regardless what he had on his agenda, he always took time to come over and share a visit. I delighted in finding unusual restaurants I knew he'd enjoy and taking him out for meals. There were a few times he would literally sit for over an hour not conversing or eating, just looking around -- like when we went to the Rainforest Cafe or Claim Jumper or some other fun place. And knowing how much he loved sea food, up until just a few years ago when he and grandma became more house bound with age and infirmities, I always sent them a gift card to Red Lobster.
Grandpa could fix anything. Growing up, he told me he would often go out and get whatever new-fangled thing came out on the market -- cars, trucks, radios, televisions, you name it -- just so he could take it apart and put it back together again. Who needed instruction manuals on how to run things when you had Grandpa?
Grandpa did probably just about any job you could think of during his lifetime -- farming, construction, gravel, repairs. And I found out during my last visit last spring that he was even one of the Watkins men! No wonder Watkins is so much in my blood!
There have always been funny stories floating around about Grandpa -- like the time when he was talking to a child walking home from school who told him that he could count. Gramp asked him how far he could count and his reply was "all the way home!" Or how he loved to dig through things at the local dump and once found a beautiful purse for Grandma only to open it up and find an even bigger treasure -- a white-gold watch with several diamonds! Or the time he was cutting something and his finger got in the way. After slitting it open, he noticed some white things hanging out and cut them off, too...I believe they were tendons!
He loved to talk. He loved to tell stories. And wow, do I miss those stories! We could often find Grandpa at family events later in life either talking up a storm or, if it was quiet, napping in a corner somewhere.
After Tony and I met then married, I especially loved talking with him and often called him at least once a month. He would relate all kinds of farming stories, give all kinds of farming tips, and ask for all kinds of advice from Tony for his garden. And Grandpa ALWAYS had a garden (even though in the last years he really didn't go much with it...my Dad and uncles and aunts did!). Appropriately, his name was "George" which literally means "farmer." I cannot remember a summer going by when we didn't all get together -- aunts, uncles, cousins -- to pick, husk, blanch, and freeze unbelievable amounts of corn. Knowing how much corn we grow, Grandpa gave me that huge kettle we used outside for cooking the corn several years back. And Grandpa's corn was the best I ever tasted...until I tasted Carter's sweet corn (honestly!).
Grandpa also loved pie -- any kind, I believe. He loved especially later in life when one of his girls would come over and bake pie, or at least bring him some home made pie.
Grandpa could be pretty stern, too. When he passed on, one of the most common memories of him was of his finger thumping heads when there was noise in church or misbehavior. But I can honestly say I don't ever remember getting thumped! He was quite conservative in many of his views, and often wouldn't let visiting ministers preach at "his" church if they wore a wedding band (his church didn't believe one should wear jewelry). But regardless of his his views and opinions, he was also a wonderful mediator and was respected by people on both sides of the fence, regardless of what that fence was.
When I first met my future father-in-law, I was struck by how similar he was in so many ways to my grandpa. Personality, likes and dislikes, views and opinions, other's views and opinions of him. I couldn't wait for Grandpa to come and visit me here in Minnesota! Not only did I have the perfect restaurant picked out to take him (West Forty -- LOTS of farm and tractor memorabilia), but he would love to see our farm here, visit with my father-in-law (although I'm not sure which one would talk the most with all the stories they'd be telling each other!), and visit one of the places he always wanted to get to but hadn't -- the Antique Tractor and Engine museum that is only a few miles from us. However, Gramp never made it up here....and I miss knowing he never will. But, Grandpa is in a much better place!
I miss my grandpa. I miss our telephone conversations. I miss the stories he shared. I miss just going over to his house or taking him out for supper. I miss not being able to show him one of the things he would've delighted in the most...our farm. But I'm glad that one day I'll see him again.