The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.


Earlier this week my paternal grandfather passed away, which is sad but not entirely unexpected. At first the plan was for some of the grandkids to tell stories at the memorial but that has been changed. Nevertheless, it set my mind thinking about stories about my grandpa and I just wanted to share the ones that came to mind.

One summer when I was in college we (my mom, dad and I) went to “the cabin.” (“The cabin” is a cabin in northern Arizona that my parents and grandparents co-owned. My parents thought it was a great thing because, being a Military family, we didn’t have a permanent home. The cabin was our permanent home.)

At some point after arriving my grandma asked my dad to cut down a branch from a tree. She asked my dad to do this because she was worried about my grandpa hurting himself if he did it (I think grandpa was ok with this in theory, but I think he wanted to be the one to get the work done). I was also sent along on this branch cutting fun. I don’t honestly remember if my dad told me to come along, or my mom – but knowing my dad, I would guess my mom asked me to go (like grandpa, I’m sure my dad was confident and would’ve been perfectly content to do this work himself). This is funny to me – the two wives, and moms, turning to the younger one and saying, “hey, how about you wield the chain saw.”

My dad propped the ladder up against the tree and began to climb. I think I was standing at the ladder, trying to keep it steady, and grandpa was a few feet off. No one was happy. My grandpa was, in his way, worried about my dad’s safety. I was right there, in my own way, doing the same. These worries came out in the form of saying, “ehhh … careful … no … you know … let me do this, huh?”

Eventually (I’m honestly not sure why) my dad decided to hand the reins over to me. It could be that a slight bit more reach was needed, and my lanky frame was fit for the job. I climbed the ladder and now experienced what my dad had just been experiencing – two people worried about my safety and saying hey wait, let me do this instead.

I don’t think I am doing a very good job of describing this moment, because I can’t convey with such a simple, silly thing – cutting a branch down in the woods – how much of each of us was shown there. It really was a very touching, caring moment.

My grandpa was an electrical engineer. My dad is a mechanical engineer. I am a software engineer. And here’s what I’ve noticed about engineers – we (very often wrongly) think we’re better than you. My logic is the most sound logic – your logic is flawed and, frankly, illogical. We’re obnoxious.

Generally, if an engineer wants to take over doing something for you it’s not because you’re doing it wrong, it’s that you’re not doing it just right. But here was a moment where each of us wanted to take over in our very engineering way, “no, no, don’t do that …” (watching and analyzing and seeing that you should have your feet more spread apart on the ladder, can’t you see that your positioning is troublesome at that height) – except instead of wanting to take over to correct the wrong it was all out of care and love.

So, that’s  that.

The other two memories that come to mind are fast. I promise.

1 – One time when I stood up (my sister says from a chair, I thought it was me getting out of a car) my grandpa said, “wow! Look at those limbs! You’re like a spider!”

My grandpa had a very quick wit and was a clever fella. Unfortunately, those jokes he had usually left my mind because they were spot on in that moment, but then you forgot about them after the situation passed. I really do wish I had written down some of the gems he’d said.

2 – One day at the cabin I headed out to the back deck to read. Not long after I headed out there, my grandpa came outside and sat down with a book as well. He looked up at me and grinned. It felt like he was a little brother who wanted to do something together. I could be all wrong there, but I like thinking that he wanted to come join me and he was enjoying it just being us two sitting outside, reading.

3 – Bonus third! One time (according to my mom), my grandpa called me handsome. So take that!

Lastly – you know what’s awkward? Co-workers saying, “ooooh where are you going? Big trip!” and you saying, “ah … no … um … it’s not a good trip,” but still they’re looking for an answer, so eventually you spit out that it’s for a funeral and you get emotional and close to tears in a cubical. Cubicals are no place for tears!! (Don’t worry Story Teller, if you’re reading this, I appreciated you asking and I found the moment funny and awkward – just my style.)

I’ll be back to blogging regular stuff next week sometime.

Comments on: "Grandpa" (4)

  1. So sorry for your loss! My grandma used to tell us that as long as we think about those we’ve lost from time to time, they are never totally gone. I’ve always remembered that it helped me when she died. Take care…

  2. I like the fact that all three of you were in engineering, just different fields. You hear a lot about the second and third generation firefighters, cops, doctors, but the engineers go largely unsung. I know it’s a sadly bittersweet post for you Brad, thanks for sharing about your granddad with us all.

  3. So sorry for your loss, but smiling at these memories you shared with us. That’s the stuff that lasts!

  4. Story Teller said:

    Thanks for sharing the memories Brad. Got a chuckle and a sad but good-hearted feeling out of each of them. It is always hard to lose family, especially someone with a good heart as it is clear your Grandpa had. When you get back, we will have to share more grandpa stories over a beer. My grandpa Pharon “Dutch” Jackson, who passed a number of years ago, was another kind soul. Be sure to share your memories with the fam even if they don’t officially pass u the talking stick.

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