Dear Little Angel,
For the past few days I have spent my time in Connecticut in training required by work in hopes of helping me develop into a stronger leader. Tonight, while setting in the classroom I received an email from your mother to call home as soon as time permitted. As this type of message is not common from your mother, I dismissed myself from the training room and into the hallway. A few short rings sounded, followed by your mother's somber voice on the other end of the line. "Honey, your grandfather passed away early this morning. I am sorry." I thanked her for letting me know, and bid her goodbye. Throughout the day, my mind has focused on the passing of this man in my life. Countless summers have been spent bailing hay in the field, early mornings as we bottle fed the calves in the old barn behind his house or hours setting in the bow of the aluminum boat as the sun baked the energy out of a small child while I was told to be very quiet so I did not scare the fish.
My grandfather. Visits to his house where a treat for a curious boy. The back yard and acres of farm were filled with old cars, empty fields, parts of torn down wood buildings and piles of window pains. One of my summers was spent picking up rocks from the fields and placing them in the front bucket of the tractor, we called old yeller, for punishment to a boy and his cousins who had made a game out of tying a piece of twine around a old rusty spike from a tractor plow. The object, drop the spike to see how many glass windows stacked on the ground below could be pierced and broken. The twine attached to the spike made for an easy retrieval back to the top of the old triangle shaped trusses that housed the stacks of windows setting in the middle of the field so the game could be played over and over again. I would imagine we had to of broken hundreds of windows that had been saved for years with the dreams of one day building a greenhouse.
As a growing boy, we loved to travel to Morgan. The fields in the lower valley shimmered with the water of the irrigation canals. In the heat of the summer, hours were spent walking the banks watching for a leopard frog to jump as it attempted to escaped the hands of it's would be captor. The dry farms behind the house made for an excellent target range for BB guns at first, then rifles and shotguns as we turned into adults. As children, grandpa always had horses. In his younger years, the horses were his means of transportation into the back country of the High Unitas with Uncle Dick. As he aged, he rarely road the horses, but kept them around for many years. Often trips to my grandparents house was rewarded when grandpa or Aunt Joy would saddle the horses and ride us around the farm.
On a recent trip to his house before he was to weak to travel his farm, I was scolded for shooting up one of his gates. I was a little perplexed as I had learned my lesson years ago, when older cousins were punished for shooting out the windows in the old abandoned cars out back of the house. Sure he was mistaken, I challenged with a little sarcasm ...."What gate are you talking about Grandpa?" A quick response came. "The board, I use to block the hole in the fence so Drisco can get through when he does his morning walks." Immediately, images of a board laying in the field we had found and used to tape our targets to popped into my head. I replied, "How were we suppose to know that was a gate? How many people would guess an old dried sun faded board laying in the middle of the field was a gate?" Grandpa's reply was swift, "Well it was a gate and now I have to find a new one."
On the side of the house is a deep ravine where the old wagon road used to haul sugar beets winds up from the fields below in the valley to the dry farm above. At the bottom of the ravine scattered from the top to the bottom is anything we as grand kids could find that would roll. Old tires, drums from washing machines, and rocks account for many hours spent on the farm. As grand kids, we would search the piles of stuff in the backyard for these round objects. Then, we would carefully roll them over to the edge of the ravine only to let them go as they tore down the hill jumping over the bumps, sagebrush and uneven surfaces until they finally came to rest at the bottom. Although we found the use of our time as well spent, grandfather did not. After all these years, visits in recent months required time set aside to question all the would be wrong doers, "When are you kids going to clean up all those tires and junk you threw down into my ravine?" I always answered him, "I don't imagine to soon. Them tires are heavy. That's why we left them down there as kids."
I believe if my grandfather would want to be remembered for something, it would be the hugs he always gave to the granddaughters when they visited his house. A huge hug as he wrapped his arms around to squeeze tight, followed by the phrase, "If you didn't like that huge....you know it is returnable."
As you grow older, I know your memories of this man in your life will fade. You will struggle to remember who he was and what he was like. I want you to always remember this, every time as the front door opened to his home, you could find him setting in his favorite brown leather lazy-boy in front of his big screen tv, his eyes setting on your big smile as you ran into his house with arms opened wide he would call to you, "There's my beautiful granddaughters. Come give me a hug!" Then he would turn to grandma and say, "We sure got the prettiest Grand kids, don't we Betty!" as he looked to Grandma to join in as each of them hugged and told you how much they love you.