We don’t see many grandfathers at school. I don’t know why. For most of my teaching career I would say that I’ve met more than half the grandmothers and only about a third of the grandfathers attached to my students. Not exact statics, just an observation. I’ve also noticed that many of my students don’t talk much about their grandfathers unless they are discussing fishing, hunting, or gardening. Perhaps that’s why they have been more of a topic lately- lots of fishing and gardening going on.
I was blessed to know both of my grandfathers despite some major obstacles. As I’ve said before, Grandad Lee (Dad’s father) was an alcoholic, and Pappa Springer (Mom’s father) was often a thousand miles away. My somewhat estranged relationship with Lee is evidenced by the fact that there are so few photos of us together or even of him alone, even though I spent years in his home. He died in 1975 and was buried on my birthday. My memories of Pappa are scattered and fragile- bits and pieces of visits until we moved here when I was in high school. Then I was in CA for many years. He died in 1990, the year before my husband and I returned to live here.
My grandfathers provided quite a contrast for me and I gained some valuable insights into human character from both of them. Grandad was tall and lean, gruff and serious. He often shouted complaints or demands. Pappa was shorter, rounder, softer, and gentler. I don’t remember ever hearing him raise his voice to anyone. Grandad spoke in terse, sharp sentences accented with words and phrases that my mother cautioned me never to “repeat in public!” Pappa could drawl out an explanation of something ‘til it was so long that I’d forgotten my question. And he was outspoken about politics and people. I never understood half of what he was talking about, but I loved hearing him talk!
I don’t suppose our childhood memories of our grandparents are ever that accurate. I remember Mom often spoke of how strict her father was and Dad swears that his father was once a hard-working man with a sense of humor. However, our mind stores and recalls what it chooses and impressions are impossible to erase. I will always remember Grandad as the person in my life who made toys and charmed animals and gardened. And my impression of him was that he hated people, cursed fate for destroying his life plans, and wanted everyone to love him, but understood why they didn’t. Pappa was the gentle soul who linked me to our past with wagon rides and walks in the woods and lessons in the hen house. When I was a young girl who was just visiting I often thought of him as old fashioned and out of touch with the “big world”. As I grew older I began to see him as wise and comfortable with his life.
When I think of my grandfathers I realize that both of them shared a deep, abiding love of nature. Both loved to grow things. Both surrounded themselves with animals. Both loved to just be outside. Both loved their families. Both loved me. I suppose that’s what really matters.