Friday, January 27, 2006

Simply the Best

I haven't written this month for many reasons, the most important of which is due to my extended work schedule this month. However things will return to "normal" next month! Another reason is because I've been a little under the weather, in mind, body and spirit. This can happen easily as winter is the ugliest part of Korea and people keep passing their colds and germs back and forth. I have to be honest with myself and admit that I've also been down this month because of the death of my godfather, "Grandpa Woody."

As many of you know, both of my actual grandfathers died before I was born. One gave me his name and the other gave me male pattern balding. I didn't really have a grandfather until my family moved to Beloit when I was 8 months old. That's when an older couple "adopted" my family and became my grandparents. They were more like godparents because they were members of our church as well as neighbors, sharing the same 307 street address and living one street over.

My very earliest memory is walking up the steep incline of their driveway, dragging my port-o-potty behind me. It was August 18, 1976 and I was spending the night with them because my mother was going into labor with my brother David. The next morning I remember waking up between them (they had company staying in their guest bedroom) and feeling very happy.
The rest of my childhood is full of memories of Grandpa Woody and Grandma Mary. We celebrated our birthdays together and each year, after our church candlelight Christmas Eve service, we always went over to their house for peppermint ice cream and cookies. They came to our house for Thanksgivings and Christmas dinners. It was who Grandpa Woody kept and fed the gerbils our folks bought for us one Christmas so my brother and I would have the best surprise of our lives. We went to Grandpa Woody and Grandma Mary's house when we went trick or treating and caroling. Whenever my cub scout troop compelled us to walk reluctantly door to door hawking candy or crystal prisms, I could always count on them to buy something. I always appreciated that.

Every Sunday morning, after Grandpa Woody read the Salina Journal, he would put the comics on the top and roll it back up and then drive over to toss it on our lawn so we could enjoy it. Sometimes he would hide the comics in the middle of the classifieds or the sports section as a joke. For a long time, my family had only one car, which Dad would take on Sundays to preach at the church in Simpson before coming back to Beloit for his second service that morning. So Grandpa Woody would drive over to pick up my mother, brother and me and take us to Sunday school. It would be my job to stand at the picture window, nose pressed against the cold pane, and holler at Mom when I saw him turn at the corner of our block. I sat between him and Grandma Mary every Sunday for as long as I can remember. Before the sermon began he would give Grandma Mary and I an old fashioned Brach's white peppermint candy. After the service he would give me (and the rest of the kids who approached him) a Brach's butterscotch candy encased in yellow cellophane. Grandpa Woody went up the aisle with me at the end of church one Sunday and later, got baptised right after me in the same tank of water. He was really the best grandpa anyone could have ever wanted.

Later when I got older, I grew to appreciate more things about him than what he did for me personally. Despite not having a high school education, he worked many years as an auto mechanic and was quite successful. He loved watching his basketball and football games, especially if Iowa or Kansas State were playing. He was very funny and was always cracking jokes or teasing. He was an amazing caretaker- he took care of his first wife during her long struggle with cancer. He married Grandma Mary (also widowed) and then took care of her during the last years of her life. He loved to grow corn and tomatoes and sometimes he would barbeque hamburgers on the grill. He liked to feed birds so he could watch them from his window and was always complaining about the squirrels that came to steal the food and the cats that came to eat the birds! The best thing about Grandpa Woody were his hugs- he seemed to be this giant of a man and when he hugged you, you felt really comforted.

I regret that he never took me fishing in that boat of his. I always really wanted to do that. It seemed like some sort of mysterious rite of passage. I regret that I misled him about never "finding the right girl." I regret that I didn't write as much as I should have and that I'll be over here when his memorial service will be held over there. My focus now is to let go of these regrets and instead be thankful for the incredible blessing God gave me by putting such a positive role model in my life.