My mother’s dad was a six foot tall, straight-standing German, the first generation born in the U.S. As a kid, I was fascinated by the fact that he served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in WWI, and once met General John J.“Black Jack” Pershing, the commander of U.S. forces in the war. He was gassed in battle and his subsequent nightmares and sleep-walking were attributed to that.
He had a garage/repair shop in town, and later in life worked as a handyman. His occupation allowed me to tag along as he maintained old, rural cemeteries, repaired roofs, and painted houses. I loved it!
I spent several weeks every summer living with my Grandparents in their old two story home in a tiny rural town in Northwest Missouri. I had a gang of young friends that I hung out with, and we rode our bikes all everywhere, down to the river, up to the ball park, or to the gas station for a bottle of pop where there was always a bunch of old men sitting on an old repurposed pew lined up along the outer wall of a neighboring business. I loved the hardware store, where I would look at fireworks, fishing gear, and knives.
My brother and I were always having make believe wars in the yard (Sometimes they escalated into real wars.) and Grandpa’s yard had lots of walls, bushes, and out buildings that made good forts. We were always looking for something new to blow up with firecrackers, too. Occasionally, we did constructive things, like help with the gardening and the yard work. I loved picking strawberries, though a lot of them did not make it to the house.
My grandpa and I would fish together and while fishing or while sitting in the evening shade in old metal lawn chairs, we would have conversations about things like WWI, the news, happenings in the little town, anything and everything.
He was passionate gardener and fisherman, and a quiet, patient, easy going, kind man. Most importantly, he always had time for me!
This post was originally published March 4, 2010.