I always loved this short segment in Pixar’s Up. Loving and sad, my wife and I talk about how we’ll be this old couple still in love and having that magic. Well my grandparents were married 66 years, and had some version of this I suppose.
My Grandpa passed away yesterday at 86 years old. He was the quiet patriarch of the farm, raising five kids on a small dairy farm that is still in operation today. He married my Grandmother at 20 years old, and took over the family farm that my father grew up on. He worked hard, never complained, loved his dogs and family. He was a simple, strong man of yesteryear. In post retirement, he was a lead volunteer in the snowmobile club, grooming trails when they had enough snow.
Some of my fondest childhood memories were spending time on the farm in the summer (where we were dropped off for a few weeks of free “Summer camp”) and allowed to get into all sorts of trouble rural kids take for granted. Feeding the calves, shoveling shit, bringing the food scraps to the 30 barn cats (half-feral, missing eyes, all full of piss and vinegar, but still would allow a 10 year old to pick them up and pet them), making homemade rivet guns/crossbows, milk from the stainless steel tanks so thick you had to skim the cream off. Those who grew up know the drill, like heaven for any boy.
We would walk or snowmobile out the half-mile to the steep wooded section of their farm, and sled for hours on toboggans and sleds on the cleared path, drinking hot chocolate and having a winter picnic. We always had Christmas at my grandparents, and it always special! We’d roll in late in the night since we had to travel hours to get there. The cuckoo clock lighting our way as we tried (quietly, but usually unsuccessfully) to enter the huge, old farmhouse. We’d sneak upstairs to the rooms, seeing our breath in the cold winter farmhouse air, and snuggle in, excited for Christmas morning.
Always an extravaganza, Christmas was. After chores, great farm food prepared by Grandma and the aunts, at a large table with all the relatives. Later, opening gifts in the living room, Grandpa sitting in the recliner watching over it all. After he’d fall asleep in the chair, the grandkids (he had 10) would decorate him with bows and wrapping paper. Always a good sport, he’d laugh and clean himself off after he woke up.
My brothers and I will be part of the pallbearer group. It’s an honor,and while we weren’t particularly close, lessons learned from observing him (and hence passed on to my own father) still reverberate through my life. Work hard. Take care of family. Enjoy the small things. Don’t complain. Be quiet unless you have something to say. Marry for life. Be the king of your domain, and let your wife be the queen of hers. Be kind to your neighbor. Give back to those causes you love. Simple is often better than complex. Love your dog like your kid. Save money, so when things (milk prices) turn to shit, you are still able to stay solvent. And finally, family and friends are priceless – continue to keep those relationships alive – especially that with your wife.
Rest in peace Grandpa. We’ll miss you, but your legacy will live on.