Mitzy, Grandpa George and Grandma Esther
Grandpa George was old for as long as I knew him. He was a very tall, thin, quiet, grey-haired farmer of a man who spoke fluent Swedish and English. When I first met him, he was still living on the same farm where he and I were born. He lived in the downstairs of the big white farm house his father had built in the 1880’s and I lived upstairs with my parents and older brother. Except for a trip or two to Wisconsin, I do not think that he ever traveled beyond the borders of Minnesota.
For as long as I can remember, Grandpa George was one of my best buddies. He would tell me stories and take me on adventures to feed baby pigs, calves and chicks. Grandpa George would even let me hold the water hose when we were flooding gopher holes in Grandma’s garden. He never even got upset should I get the tips of his brown boots wet. “Oh, they’ll dry out all right,” he’d say.
Gopher hole flooding with Grandpa George.
On a farm where animals and spinning tractor wheels were loud, fast and dangerous, grandpa was quiet, slow and safe. Grandpa always looked out for me. I loved spending time with Grandpa George. Why, he even invented a new board game just for me. It was called “Give Away”. The one who lost all of their checkers first was the winner. I was champion at that game!
On the other hand, my Grandmother Millicent was a bird of a different feather. She would blow in from the big city for a visit like a whirlwind. One thing I have always remembered about Grandmother Millie was that she loved birds. She had many parakeets colored both blue and green.
When she would come to the farm to visit us, she would oftentimes bring me a gift of a pet parakeet. This would have been a great gift for most little girls, except I was severely asthmatic and horribly allergic to feathers. Having a bird in the house was a sure asthma trigger and usually ended in a trip to the emergency room. That not withstanding, Grandmother still brought me those birds.
Not too long after she would leave the farm to return to civilization, Grandpa George would decide it was time to clean the bird’s cage. Out he’d go with the cage, bird and some clean newspaper to replace the dirty papers in the bottom of the cage. Soon he’d return with an empty cage looking so sad. He’d slowly shake his head and tell me that, “It happened again, the cats were just too quick for your old grandpa.” Then, the bird cage would disappear, until grandmother’s next visit.
I remember that many an asthma attack was spent on Grandpa George’s lap, being slowly rocked, with my head pressed to his chest listening to his pocket watch tick as he mumbled Swedish tunes. Grandpa George never mumbled a tune in English. He would rock me until I was asleep and many times he would still be rocking me when I awakened.
Rocking with grandpa was not only a safe place, but it was also where I learned about the big and beautiful world God created. Grandpa had this ancient wooden viewer contraption called a stereoscope that came with lots of cards of old black and white pictures. Each card had two identical pictures on it. When you inserted the cards into the viewer you were treated to an image with depth.
Many an afternoon was spent there on grandpa’s lap as he took me on imaginary trips to France, England, Italy, China, Japan and many other far off places. It was such a surprise to see that there were more beautiful places than just our farm.
When I see that people from around the world read this blog, I am reminded of Grandpa George and our “trips.” He would have been so interested in learning about all of places where my blog readers live.
There was a time when I dreamed of visiting many of those far away places to make real memories to go along with those made during my rocking chair travels with grandpa. However, due to my busted up spine from my bout with multiple myeloma, a bone cancer, that is no longer an option. But, each time I see another reader in some far away land has checked out my blog, those magical memories from childhood return and I think of my travels with grandpa.
While, I suppose it is sad, that I will never get to see the landmarks he showed me in all of those pictures we shared. I remind myself that, he, too, never got to see any of those wonderful places, but somehow it was always enough for him just to know that they were there.
Today, I am remembering Grandpa George, a gentle man of God with a gift for storytelling, who was at peace with his lot, lived well into his eighties and died when I was about ten years old. The time we spent together here on this earth was short, but the memories of our trips around the world together will stay with me forever.
This Father’s Day I hope you will all take time to reach out to the men in your life that have shown you love and kept you safe. I wish everyone everywhere a safe, happy and loving Father’s Day. May our great heavenly Father, bless you all!