Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In Memory of Grandpa

I found out a little bit ago that my grandpa passed away. We are leaving in 2 hours for vacation, and in order to process things a little bit before I go, I thought I'd write a blog post in honor of Grandpa. These kinds of times are the ones where I most acutely feel the distance between myself and my family: the opposite side of the world feels much further than normal right now. I know that Grandpa's passing is a blessing. He was 94 years old and has spent the majority of the last few months waiting for death. However, I wish that I could be there to say goodbye in person.

Instead, though, I bid Grandpa goodbye in a blog post. As I did with Grandma a couple of years ago, I am going to write some of my favorite memories of Grandpa, all of which I hope will honor his memory.

- Grandpa and Grandma used to come over to our house to celebrate our birthdays. I remember after opening presents on numerous of these occasions my mom would tell me to give Grandpa a hug and kiss and say thank you. Grandpa always exclaimed in delight when I gave him these hugs: he really, really loved his grandchildren.

- Before I could distinguish my sets of grandparents by their last names, I thought of them based on what I knew most about them. Grandpa Boer was the "gum Grandpa". He would lure me over to give him a hug by bribing me with a piece of peppermint gum. For a long time it was Doublemint, but eventually his gum of choice turned to Extra. To this day, whenever I smell or taste either of those brands of peppermint gum, I think of Grandpa.

- Grandpa had a set of false teeth. When I was quite young, he showed me how he could pop them out of his mouth. I was mildly terrified of this at first, and Grandpa, with his eyes twinkling, asked me if I could pop my teeth out, too. I tried and tried, but (for some strange reason) just couldn't do it. Grandpa laughed so hard as he watched me try. I'm certain I wasn't the only child to fall for this trick!

- Grandpa was a fantastic woodworker. He had a whole room (well, walk-in closet) in his condo with shelves from the floor to ceiling filled with his creations. I remember many times where he took out a puzzle and tried to show me how to do it, but it turned out to have some trick behind it that I couldn't figure out. I remember him bringing out new toys when we came over: designs he had just tried or others that had just been in the back of the closet for a while. I was always delighted with whatever he brought for our entertainment.

- I (as well as my siblings and cousins) have basically a lifetime of Christmas presents that were made by Grandpa. Shelves to be hung on the wall, clocks, toy cars, tops, a doll cradle, and (one of my favorites) a rocking horse:
 I don't get to use most of these, as they're stored at my parent's house, but I do have a few pieces that fit well into a suitcase in our apartment here in Thailand. I look forward to the day when I get to unpack all of these treasures and remember again what an artist and craftsman my Grandpa was.

- Grandpa loved birds. He spent a lot of time watching the birds in the trees and birdhouses outside the big windows in his living room. I received lesson after lesson through my lifetime about which birds were which, and which ones were the 'nice kinds' and which ones were just annoying. I never really wanted these lessons about birds, but I look back and smile at them now because of how passionate Grandpa was about them.

- Whenever we came to visit Grandpa and Grandma in their condo, the TV was always on. If it was during the summer, it was usually a Cubs game. How awesome that Grandpa lived to see the Cubs finally win a World Series!

- I remember the first time Michael met my grandpa when we were dating. We were sitting around the dining room table at my parents house with Grandpa, Grandma, and my parents and siblings. Grandpa told Michael that he ought to marry "a Mexican girl" because they "listen to their husbands." Ha! I could have died! This remains one of my favorite memories because of how hilariously awkward it was.

- For the whole time we lived in Thailand, Grandpa was full of questions about our lives here. He was fascinated with the culture and food. Michael and I both always enjoyed talking with him because he wanted to know so many different things (although he tended to ask the same questions from year to year).

- A few years ago when we were back in the States for a visit, Michael and I had arranged to visit Grandpa and Grandma one day, but it was raining and we didn't have a car. I called, and Grandpa said that he could drive over and pick us up. He lived across town, and was (I kid you not) at my parents' house about 3 minutes after we hung up. We were surprised, but probably shouldn't have been. We got in the car and, quite literally, raced back to Grandpa and Grandma's condo. I was afraid for my life on that ride. :)

- I am thankful (so thankful) that Grandpa lived long enough to meet Gerrit. Grandma passed away just a few weeks before Gerrit was born, and I wasn't sure if Grandpa would live long enough for us to make it back the following summer. However, he lived a full 2 years longer! We came back for two different summers after Gerrit was born, and we got to spend quite a lot of time with Grandpa on both of these visits:
Grandpa and Gerrit, May 2015

My dad, grandpa, Gerrit, and me, June, 2016
Grandpa delighted in watching Gerrit play on the floor when we came to visit, and this last summer even gave Gerrit a soft ball to play with (although at the time Gerrit's favorite toy was Grandpa's walker). This past summer, on the last visit we had with Grandpa, he told us some stories about his dad, who also was named Gerrit. It was a special and memorable conversation, especially since it was our last.

The stories could go on and on, but I am running out of time and must end it here. I would like to end with this, though: I love you so much, Grandpa, and am thankful for the life of love and joy that you lived. You have impacted your entire family in so many ways, and will forever be remembered for your kindness and generosity. I look forward to seeing you again someday!

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