Grandpa Jack

My heart is heavy tonight.

Earlier this evening I got a call from my dad to let me know that my Grandpa Jack is not doing well.  At my age I know that I am very lucky to have grandparents that are still alive but it does not diminish the pain I feel during his demise.

I have always felt an inexplicable bond with my paternal grandparents.  It is not the normal bond grandchildren feel toward their grandparents.  It is something special, something unique.  I could never put my finger on it.

Maybe some history will help you understand….

My parents had a turbulent marriage.  They wed at a young age and fought hard to make their marriage work.  I have no doubt that they were in love, but circumstance and immaturity took their toll and they divorced when I was 12 years old.

When I was a young adult I found out that my mom and I had lived with her sister and her family for a time while my parents were separated.  It was an “a-ha” moment for me.  I had memories and a bond with this family that were not logical, but knowing that we had lived in their home was the final piece of the puzzle.

A few years ago this uncle died.  My dad came to the funeral and we were talking about the time in which I had lived with my aunt’s family.  My grandparents came up in the conversation and my dad said “You know you lived with them, too, right?”

My heart stopped.

I literally got goosebumps.

No, I didn’t know that.

My parents tried hard to make their marriage work.  At times it became too much and they would ask my grandparents to take me while they worked on their relationship.  My grandparents took me in and cared for me as if I was their own.  More than once.  More than twice.  I was theirs and they were mine.  Do I remember these times?  Not at all.  But I knew there was something there that drew me to them my entire life.  They were always mine.

They have an amazing story.  They married 6 weeks after they met.  My grandpa was in the army and fought in WWII and Korea.  He wanted to fight in Vietnam but his age prohibited him from doing so.  He selflessly served his country because it was the right thing to do.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor during his service to his country.  He went behind enemy lines by himself  to rescue a fellow soldier who was left behind.   The most incredible part of that story is that he never once spoke of it.  Even my grandmother didn’t know why he was awarded the Medal of Honor until they went to a reunion of his division a few years ago and she heard the story from a fellow soldier.   He went on to become Superintendent of a school district in Minnesota.

My grandma is an extraordinarily intelligent woman.  She was part of designing the United States’ first jet airplane.   She is an amazing woman full of spunk, brains, and courage.  She raised three incredible children while following her husband around the world.  Words cannot describe the admiration I have for her.  Being the wife of a soldier is not easy.  The pay is not good but her children never fully realized the struggles of a military family because she ensured they always felt like they had enough.

They have lived through (in no particular order):  The Great Depression, WWII, The Korean War, Vietnam, recessions, booms, Democrats, Republicans, The New Deal, The City on the Hill, Watergate, Whitewater, The Cold War,  Desert Storm, Yes We Can,  Monica Lewinsky, JFK’s assassination….I know I am missing many things…

I am incredibly lucky to have been born into this family.   I have learned courage, gratitude, perseverance, logic, sacrifice, and grace.

A few old photos I dug up of my grandpa:

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult but inevitable time….

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Grandpa Jack

  1. I am sitting here in tears! What amazing sentiments you have for your grandfather and for your grandparents in general. They sound like truly amazing folks, and have most surly helped to raise you into what you are today. The photos are extraordinary. I wish I had something like that with my grandparents! Amazing. Thank you for sharing this with me, and with all of us.

  2. This is beautiful! Your story reminds me of things I felt when Grandpa Stuart was in hospice. I was lucky enough to have a closer than usual relationship with my grandparents too. My mom lived with them when I was born and Dad was in the service. Since I was the first of many grandchildren, I spent more time with them than they could give to the kids that came a decade — or more — after me. Grandparents like these are a blessing and I hope to one day be that kind of grandparent for my boys’ children.

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