Yesterday my grandpa was as excited as I’ve ever seen him. Sure, it was Flag Day, which falls right after his first (and favorite!) grandchild’s wedding anniversary and right before that same grandchild’s birthday. There’s also Father’s Day, which for a 76-year-old guy with six kids (four living), 20 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, is pretty cool.
And sure, he’s a patriotic guy, but I’ve never seen him so jazzed about Flag Day before. Turns out he’d won something earlier that day, for the first time in his seventy-six years on earth. Something that made all of the long, unrewarded years of daily toil worth it.
Grandpa comes from a small town. I’ve never been there, so I turned to my good friend Wikipedia, who had no information on Eager, Arizona. I think that explains a lot. Grandpa served a mission for our church in the central U.S., and then joined the Army and served in Germany in the early 1950s. He married Grandma, they had six kids, and then life got hard. I’m not sure on the timeline, but Aunt CoCo has Downs Syndrome, and Aunt Jodi and Uncle Kurt died within six months of each other, of kidney failure.
I remember when they were still alive, and Grandma and Grandpa (and Jodi, mostly) had horses: Thunder, Lady, and Star the pony. They lived in Southern California and had a voracious lemon-eater goat named Annie. Also Cesar the golden retriever who’d let us stick our fingers down his throat.
Grandpa suffered serious business reversals, and still works hard every day, even after his heart surgery a few months ago.
Grandpa is bald, and kind, and funny. He is loving to his wife of 52 years. A wife who is what I like to call a “strong woman” — I come by my own gumption, assertiveness, and zest for life honestly, after all. Grandma and me and Katherine Hepburn, only without her great cheekbones.
I wish the good people at Macey’s grocery store knew how much it meant to Grandpa to win the Flag Day raffle. Grandpa told us how they went to the store, probably because the deals and discounts warmed their frugal hearts. The store manager called out all the winners, and Grandpa looked at the ticket in his hand.
Grandpa’s the sort of pack rat (in the nicest way possible) who has four of every kind of tool. You know, in case your primary lug wrench gives out, and you’ve misplaced your backup, and your grandkid has lost your second backup. And if you lose it and ask him for another, he’ll give you his fourth. I don’t know how the impulses of selfless generosity and extreme frugality co-exist so peacefully.
I learned a lot about the fathers in my life this Father’s Day. My father-in-law doesn’t know who Dooce is, my husband actually prefers peanut butter to caramel, my father’s father is going deaf, my dad is a surprise-softie when it comes to pushing his youngest granddaughter on the swing. And my mother’s father? The man who waited while all the other raffle winners were announced, until his name was called at the very end?
He can’t wait to share his “free ice cream for a year” with the rest of the family.