What words does one find and use for a man that stepped up when he didn’t have to? There really are none. Sometimes I really do wish I was an animal so I wouldn’t have use such a measly form of expression. I have been wracking my brain and avoiding this ever since I was asked to put some words down. The truth is, my Grandmother would not have chosen a different man. Harry was that man. Harry was my Grandfather. He was our Grandfather even if blood did not make it so.
My Grandfather Harry went to his Heavenly home last week after a long and blessed life. He was almost 99 years old. It was not that long ago that he was still mobile and independent and his mind was his pretty much until the end. He is now whole and free. There is no more of the pain and suffering.
He lived quite a life. He was a decorated war veteran. He was a career man. There is much that can be said, but more importantly than all of that, he was a family man. A Son, a Brother, a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, a Great Grandfather.
We were blessed with and by him. He was ours and we were his. I always felt this. Sometimes when I would call them and he would answer the phone, he would immediately say, “Hold on, I’ll go get her.” My response would always be, “Harry, I want to talk to you too.”
There is a picture somewhere of him that shows him. Him. Who he was to the core to all of us, if I can be so bold as to speak for others in my family. It is somewhere and I can not find it. It wasn’t staged or posed. He wasn’t wearing a suit or a uniform dressed with medals. He wasn’t alone. He didn’t have a young man’s head of hair. Although, he always had good hair. It was that beautiful white gray. Oddly enough I do not think my Grandmother was even in the picture, which is crazy because they were always together! She might have been behind the camera. She is always taking pictures.
It was at a long ago birthday party of ours at some big venue I think. There were kids everywhere, visible even in the tight frame. They were not the focus of the photo. It was one man and one birthday kid. Full of smiles and love and life and color. Vital. He was always smiling.
Man that just smacks me right in the chest right now and has fresh, solitary tears streaming down my cheeks.
I can’t even find the photo.
It seems almost a wonder that the photo was even snapped and caught because in my memory it was somewhat blurry and out of focus with faint streaks of light across it. Taken in a quick flash in low lighting. I think there was even a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The photographer trying to enjoy the moment and create a lasting memory at the same time.
There was a big slide wherever this party was being held and right there in the middle of it, sliding down the slide like a kid himself, was Harry with one of us three girls in his lap. Both smiling in delight. I don’t even think you’re supposed to do that with kids these days. Something about ripping their arms and legs off. I think kids are supposed to wear harnesses and seatbelts now. Anyway.
I can’t find the picture.
My Grandmother used to always have freezer waffles for me in the mornings when I would sleep over as a kid. Nobody could prepare them like her and it could not be recreated at home. At some point in time, and I do not know why, Harry started making waffles and I never gave another thought to freezer waffles. Every time after that when I would sleep over, we would have Harry’s waffles. He made the world’s best waffles. We all loved his waffles. He whipped the egg whites by hand to fold into the batter. That made them light, and airy in texture on the inside, but they also had a lovely crisp on the outside.
They loved to go out to breakfast as a couple. When I stopped sleeping over at their house, I started to join them for breakfast sometimes. Harry found the best waffles at Le Peep and that came to be the only place we would go as the three of us so Harry and I could get waffles. I still think they are the best waffles if you can not have Harry’s waffles. They used to also have a standing date with a big table at a local Tex-Mex restaurant on Sunday evenings. It was almost like a revolving door dinner in my mind, even if I did say I was crashing their dinner when I would invite myself to come. Whoever wanted to come could come. Like when he would go to breakfast, he generally ordered the same things for dinner there too.
Harry knew that I liked to cook and bake and experiment in the kitchen. At some point before he married my Grandmother he had collected recipes and organized them in a recipe box. Every time he saw an interesting recipe, he would just store it away. He told me that he had not even looked at them since he married my Grandmother. He gave me his box of recipes that he had held on to for all those years. I loved to get Harry’s feedback on my desserts at our family gatherings. He was always very thoughtful and honest. He was a great listener and not just of words.
He always did the dishes. I don’t ever remember not having an awareness of him doing the dishes. It was his thing. There was nothing to ‘get’ or understand about it. It was his thing. The first time I tried to help him, he all but shooed me out of the kitchen. It was his domain after a meal was prepared. I don’t know if it was his little quiet in our family craziness or just what he did. He finally did let me help after my insistence, but we had to do it his way. So we did. He taught me how to use the disposal. I always wondered how he did the dishes so quickly!
When my Grandparents would come to the farm, Harry would always take time for a walk down the lane. Before he would bring a cane, he would find a sturdy and straight stick of pecan wood to use as a walking stick. Sometimes others would join him on his walk and sometimes he would go by himself, but he would always come back with a gathering of pecans. I think the pecans he gathered on one of his last walks a few years ago entertained my cousin’s daughter, L, for a good long while after we taught her how to use a nut cracker.
At my Grandmother’s birthday celebration last year, we gathered in their back yard to have sandwiches and cupcakes. You see they have one of the best yards. Harry meticulously cared for their yard and flower beds for as long as I can remember. There was always something beautiful to look at and, man, their lawn! It is a great lawn. We had many great Easter egg hunts in that yard. I think all of us cousins look at a yard and think what it would be like to have an Easter egg hunt there because of our memories there. Anyway, we celebrated my Grandmother’s birthday out there. Covid gave us an excuse to. My cousins were there with their kids and I was there with Merle. Harry came over to me in his wheelchair and told me to go shut the driveway gate so I could let my pup off the leash. He wanted him to play with the kids in the yard and on the lawn. To be free, like the kids in that way of kids. I do not really even know if he was really a dog man, but he always was happy to let me go on about my animals. I gladly did as he asked and shut the gate. As the two of us watched kids and dog play in the yard he said to me, “Your Grandmother and I always dreamed of having all the kids play in this yard.” I do not think his smile ever looked so big and bright. I wonder if that is why he always kept it just so.
Well, Harry, your dream came true. At least in my eyes.
Ever faithful. Ever constant. Ever present.
He was a presence in our lives.
I remember him like he was in this video. He was 91 in this video. What a man! What a life!
Walk in love, dear readers.
Go be with your loved ones. Share your love and memories.