Sunday, July 1, 2007
My grandfather passed away last week. After seven years of illness that ebbed and flowed, our family thought we were ready for the end, but of course we were not.
He was a farmer. A quiet man who commanded respect effortlessly, even sitting in his armchair. He was stern, but fair. Committed to hard work and a tidy garden. He was hard on his children but loved to tease his grandchildren. He loved to play cards and fish. He was never sarcastic, but often chuckled about people's foolishness. He was humble and kind.
He was the bedrock of a family that was unusually close and committed to one another. Of course, I had no idea how unusual this kind of closeness was until I was an adult. I thought everyone had grandparents and aunts and uncles who lived within 5 miles of one another; who met regularly for picnics, and card games and vacations; who never had harsh or impatient words for one another. I thought everyone grew up with cousins who were more like siblings.
The photos are the meadow of Grandpa's farm. A meadow he worked and played in his whole life. The last photo shows the view of the meadow from the porch. When I think of my grandfather, I think of him in his last years: too tired to work, but sitting on his porch, enjoying the view of the meadow and his great-grandchildren playing at his feet.
At the end, he was exhausted and he was in pain. There is no way to see his death, at 85 years of age, as anything but a blessing. He passed peacefully, surrounded by his wife and four children. But I am filled with sadness about what feels like a loss of all he symbolized to me: an idyllic childhood, a large extended family, the deep roots of the family farm.