Grandparents – if you are lucky, you have grandparents in your life as you grow up. They are there to love you unconditionally, teach you life lessons and are your biggest cheerleader.
My paternal grandparents were born at the end of the 19th century. Grandpa met Grandma when his sister married a widower with children. Grandma was one of the children. Grandpa was the youngest in his family, with all five of his sisters quite a few years older than him and Aunt Elinor waited until later in life to marry and then married an older man who already had children. The union between Grandpa and Grandma made for some unusual family ties. Aunt Elinor became Grandma Elinor to my father and his sisters. My Grandpa’s brother-in-law was also his father-in-law. Oh, the confusion.
Grandpa and Grandma were an excellent match. Grandma came from hardy stock and worked hard on the farm to not only take care of the house and their children, but to also help Grandpa where she could in the barns and fields. Alas, their union and life together was cut short when Grandma developed cancer. My father, the youngest, was only four when she passed. Her absence left a void in the family and changed the course of everyone’s life.
Grandpa did his best to be both mother and father and to also keep the farm going. His oldest sister Nina, who had been a teacher and never married, came back to the farm to assist Grandpa, both with the children and with owning and running the farm. She could be quite bossy and opinionated and often Grandpa went along with her to keep the peace.
Grandpa raised my father and his three older sisters and saw all of them married. Grandchildren soon started arriving and time moved on. Generations exchanged places, with Grandpa being the oldest generation and the grandchildren replacing my father and his siblings as the “youngest” on the farm. My generation would be the last to be born and raised on the land that had been a source of family pride and subsistence for close to 150 years.
With Grandpa living in the same house with us, we were very close and I felt privileged to tell my friends that I spent time with my Grandpa every day. He was an extraordinary influence on how I view my childhood and of the experiences I had. I still miss him every day and wish just one more time, I could hear him sing the old church hymns or recite a funny lyric. But sometimes when it is quiet and I am listening closely, I can.