Tuesday, March 22, 2011


On the first day of spring, my grandfather passed away.

And yes, he was old. And yes, he was very, very tired. And maybe we can say that it was "his time to go." It's just, he was so much more than old and tired.

He was one of those safe, stable, good things in life. You could count on Grandpa. Okay, so maybe he'd show up covered in oil, missing part of a finger, with dynamite in his back pocket, but he'd be there. And yes, occasionally he would blow stuff up, and allow small children to operate heavy machinery, and accidentally light himself on fire. He was still Grandpa, and you could still count on him.

Besides the dynamite and the tendency to get his jollies in highly dangerous situations (usually orchestrated by himself), he also used his powers for good. He drew up blue-prints and built houses. He ran printing presses and smelted rocks in his basement (and if you don't know what smelting is, that's probably because your grandpa just wasn't as cool as mine). He presided in courtrooms and supervised mines. He could fix anything with an engine. At 86 years old he could and did drive an eighteen-wheeler around perilous canyon roads better, faster, and further than you ever will, my friend. And if nuclear war is ever declared on Beaver Utah, his steel-reinforced concrete basement will be ready for it.

All of which begins to make my grandfather sound very rugged and tough and just slightly crazy, which is all true. But again, he was more than rugged and tough and crazy. He was also good. He spent his whole life giving, and giving, and giving some more. My mother used to tell me that whenever she pictures dinners during her childhood, she always remembers at least one extra person at the table. Because never mind that he already had a large family, and never mind that they lived in the middle of nowhere in some mining camp, and never mind that they didn't have much to begin with, Grandma and Grandpa always had something to share. No, he did not suffer fools gladly. And yes, he was more often to be found lingering over a cup of coffee than in church on a Sunday morning. But Grandpa always managed to be one of the most christian men I ever knew. You can suit up once a week and wear a silk tie on Sundays, but Christ expects us first and foremost to love. And suit or no suit, Grandpa understood how to love.

He also understood kids. And boy, did kids understand Grandpa. No child, no matter how shy or small, could resist the magic that Grandpa exuded. One look at his twinkling blue eyes and they were instantly crawling up his legs into his lap. Sure, he then proceeded to dance them around singing drinking songs (for a Mormon guy, he had a vast array of drinking songs, all of which he taught to his grandchildren at the earliest possible convenience). And yes, there is the aforementioned "children using heavy machinery" thing. Look, a little fun with mining equipment and a few verses of "Little Brown Jug" never hurt any of us, okay? The point is, Grandpa loved kids and kids adored Grandpa. And whenever he made that little pinching motion with his thumb and forefinger, no matter how many times we'd been caught before, no matter how obvious it was that we would just end up with out fingers trapped while Grandpa poked us in the ribs again, we fell for it. Every time.

But he wasn't just a tough, rugged, slightly crazy, good man; he was also a brilliant man. I'm not exaggerating here; he was tested and confirmed a real life, honest-to-goodness genius. And he used to do very complex math in his head, which was kind of fun to watch. And yet he wasn't showy about being so much smarter than you. He didn't need others to see his brilliance, he just used it. He just lived, and did hard things, and learned new skills, and understood the bigger picture. He had so many random certifications (and was still earning others even in his eighties) that I'm not sure anyone could really keep track of them. And he didn't earn them to show off. He earned them because, well, somebody needed to design and build an entire wetland system or treat the water for a whole town or...

So he was brilliant and capable and selfless and giving and rough and reliable and just slightly crazy. And if you think about it, after eighty-seven years, that's a lot of things for one man to be. So it isn't surprising that after a while he got kind of old and a little bit tired. But old and tired or no, he was my Grandpa and I miss him. I can't just turn away and say it was "his time to go." I don't care whose time it was, I loved my Grandpa and having him gone is like having a Grandpa shaped hole in my life.

And yet, for his sake, I can be glad for that hole. Grandpa is still brilliant and capable and selfless and giving and rough and reliable and just slightly crazy. He just isn't old and tired anymore.

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