Grandpa W, my mom's dad, is 88 years old today. We went down to L-town to my aunt's house to celebrate where my kids got to play with four of their (second? third? second-and-a-half?) cousins and where we had lots of talk, cake, pie and LOT of shouting as Grandpa W and his brother, Uncle C are both quite deaf.
Grandpa W has always been my favorite and I think he's everyone else's favorite too. He's a charming, gentlemanly fellow with hair-raising stories of his time in the Navy during World War 2 where his gunboat was destroyed while he was on it by a hidden mine. He also tell us of his later life as a mining engineer in the Silver Valley back in the boom days. Everyone is sorry to think that he'll probably be with us only a few more years because he is really something special. He is one of those wonderful and rare individuals who makes you like yourself more when you are around him.
The year I was 17, Grandpa W had a stroke and was laid up so I lived up in the Silver Valley with him and Grandma J (she died several years ago) to care for them and cook meals. I remember that they didn't like my alfredo and I refused to clean the bathroom. Other than that we got along well. That summer was one of the loneliest ones I remember yet it is also one of the times in my life I cherish because I got to know my grandparents well in a way few grandchildren are ever able to. I like to think that some of what they are has rubbed off on me for I admire them greatly, especially Grandpa W. His strength of conviction, his equal treatment of all, his love for his country and his duty, his care for his family, his awareness of good culture, his ability to look only at the good in others... all these and more I saw in him, and still see although his health is failing. I can picture him being at ease in the court of kings, yet he has never been above lending a helping hand to anyone he met, no matter what position.
Of course, one must balance out the picture of perfection I have just painted. He did just about drive me batty that summer with his fussing and worrying about everything. When he hugs me, he just about breaks my ribs and always has; his philosophy apparently being that the more you love someone the tighter you must squeeze when hugging them. And I must admit I don't always share his taste in watching the "Lawrence Welk Show". But, hey, nobody's perfect!
As you can tell, I love my Grandpa dearly and I was delighted to gather with my family to celebrate Number 88. Here's to as many more as God gives!