Here’s something the English language got right: “grand” as the prefix for “grandparent.” I cannot generate a word that better describes the role they play in Linde’s life, and the same goes for the “grands” I’ve had in my own.
It was really difficult to say "see you in the fall" to Austin's grandma, "Grandma Great," in Greeley. She cooks us dinner every Monday night and, if Linde lets us, we play games until it's bedtime. We started this tradition about five years ago and Grandma Great evenings are greatly anticipated weekly markers. With great food, conversation, and memory-making, this standing-date (and she!) is greatly missed during the summer months. As we pulled out of town, Grandma Great's was the last place we stopped for "good-byes."
I got to speak with my grandma, “MaDine” on the phone at the end of May. She and “PaJohn” lived only a couple hours away from me and my brothers growing up. There was nothing more exciting than to learn that mom and dad were going out of town and we would be with those two for the weekend. It was not that they “spoiled” us with candy (though I do recall peppermints being provided more often than they were at home) but the small things like hearing PaJohn read the story he wrote and illustrated for us over and over again that made our time with them so special. They would let us ride scooters the couple blocks between their parsonage and the church building, use their pecan picker-upper to harvest the nuts from the lawn, and even slept outside under the stars with us and our cousins one night. (I think that was on MaDine and PaJohn's 40th anniversary!) PaJohn passed away a few months after Austin and I were married. I have really missed his steady, truth-telling, purposeful life he led and shared with his family. He loved us and we knew it.
My Linde Girl gets what very few children do... four grands and a great-grand living in her town. How “great” to have that much love a short walk or drive away! We get used to such easy access to grandparent love during the seven winter months and miss them acutely during the five, long months of summer. Fortunately, there has not been a summer yet that those four have not visited. My folks like to come toward the end of the summer and are quite surprised at how much Linde Girl has grown in the months we’ve been absent.
Tim and Leanne, Austin’s folks, arrived just days after us in McCarthy. Tim helped get the flight business up and running for the summer and Leanne aided me with cabin set-up. But most enjoyable were the times they spent with their youngest granddaughter. They stayed at our place a few nights but had rented a tiny cabin (Linde called it, “the teeny tiny cabin”) in town and she was delighted to nap and spend a few nights with them there. My favorite memories of the visit were seeing her crawl onto Gramp’s lap for a snuggle, watching her learn to plant and water seeds and hiking with Granny while trying to stomp all puddles on (and off) the route. We are always sad when guests leave but we feel it most when it’s the grands.
My Papa passed away Monday night (Tuesday morning in Florida) at age 90. It was strange to think on Tuesday morning, for the first time in my life, I woke up but he did not. Even if I only had a momentary thought about him in a day, he still was somewhere full of life and love. He told my Nana on Thursday that he was “going home” and that there was nothing he had not done that he had wanted to do. Papa was a “lovely” man and he would tell you that himself!... Every time he was asked, “how’re ya doing, Everette?” he would answer, “lovely.”
My mom’s daddy, Granddaddy Nelson, passed away before I was born and though I never met him I feel like I know him pretty well. I have heard stories and memories told to me by countless of his friends. He was loved for his smiles and playful manner. Granddaddy Nelson loved taking photos and traveling with his family. If asked how his vacation was he’d reply, “I don’t know yet. I’m waiting for my pictures to be developed.” During his last few months of life he knew his days were numbered but before his death he learned my aunt was pregnant with my older cousin Jordan. He was thrilled he’d have been a grandfather and jokingly told his friends, “you didn’t think I could do it [become a grandfather] did ya?”
After Granddaddy Nelson passed away, my grandma, Grammy, married Papa. His wife, Bette, had passed away around the same time; their families had been friends for years. The two of them were present at my birth and those of my brothers. I have fond memories of her teaching me to spell, letting me play dress-up in a chest of her old clothes, and sitting on the back deck of their Florida lake cabin (that our Alaska cabin is modeled after). She and Papa also traveled around the globe and took several road trips from Florida to Alaska. They would take several months for the drive. I think this is perhaps where some of my love for this state comes from; Papa said that of the 96+ countries he visited, the United States was his favorite... Florida being his very favorite place and Alaska was a close second. Grammy was a kind, peaceful, and gentle woman. The kind of lady that everyone loves and respects. She passed away when I was in kindergarten. I recall that I did not really understand or believe death was so final. I was surprised when I was pulled out of my kindergarten class and my daddy cried while giving me the news. I would, for years, ask God to give her updates on my life; I’d ask him to tell her things I thought would make her proud and aspects of my life or personality that I suspected were like hers.
Papa married Nana when I was seven years old. Nana is not like Grammy. She is feisty and fun and full of life. Papa sure knew how to pick ‘em! When they got hitched they were hoping for 10 good years but God gave them 24! They hosted us when we visited, attended all our graduations and weddings, vacationed with us... they were our grandparents by choice. This faithfulness to us, when it was not expected and all obligations had passed, has been an example of God’s faithfulness in my life. I doubt Papa’s staying in our lives was consciously intended for that purpose; I choose to believe it was our loving Father working through Papa’s life to show us his love in another way.