I wish you all could have met my grandfather. Even if you only got to spend an evening with him, I guarantee you he would have made an impression. He was a born storyteller and he had an endless supply of jokes. I guarantee he would have made you smile.
Sadly, my grandfather passed away yesterday. He died in the hospital due to complications from heart surgery. My mother and my grandmother were by his side when he died.
He spent his formative years living on Malabar Farm in Ohio. Malabar was built in 1936 by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield, who wrote about life on the farm in his non-fiction books. My grandfather was living on Malabar Farm when Bromfield and his wife hosted Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s wedding and honeymoon. Malabar Farm is now a state park.
My grandfather had a highly decorated military career in the Air Force. He was a Vietnam veteran. He spent his tour in Vietnam working for EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal. He helped design the cruise missile and went on to retire a full bird colonel. Grandpa was proud of his time in the military and enjoyed sharing stories about his travels and experiences on bases across the globe. He will have a full military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, complete with a 21-gun salute.
He married my grandmother, Patricia, at a young age. They would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary next month. The two of them raised five children, my mother being the oldest. Sadly, my Uncle Timmy died many years ago. His ashes are spread on Mt. Jeez, which is part of Malabar Farm.
My brother and I are the oldest two grandchildren. When grandpa retired, he and grandma decided to move to Asheville, North Carolina. Our parents would have us stay with our grandparents during the summer. At first, we both went down together, but we would fight and get in so much trouble that they wisely decided to start having us visit one at a time.
I really value my time spent at my grandparent’s house in Asheville. Those few weeks I spent there each summer would always be fun and filled with activity. My grandfather was a man who liked working on projects, so we’d always be out in his garage building something or doing repairs around the house. He always took the time to explain things to me. He never talked down to me like so many adults do with young children and he seemed to genuinely love teaching me.
I also learned everything I know about computers from him. He was one of the first people I knew who owned a computer and he always had top of the line PCs. Friends would often drop off computers for him to repair, which he always seemed to relish. It was another project the two of us would work on together.
He was truly a jack-of-all-trades. He was an amateur photographer, fantastic chef, occasional poet and he could play the piano by ear. He was someone who rarely sat still. He liked taking on new challenges and learning new things and he excelled at everything he did.
No matter what the challenge was ahead of him, my grandfather would come up with a plan to solve it. He could look at a situation and easily break it down, figuring out step by step the most effective way to accomplish his goal. A few months ago, while he was having heart problems, he was at my mom’s house helping her get her house ready to sell. Each day he had a list of projects to accomplish and he didn’t stop that day until they were all done.
My grandfather definitely helped me expand my horizons. When I was a kid, I was an incredibly picky eater. Grandpa was adamant that I at least try everything on my plate, which I, of course, protested. I remember when he was in town helping my mom, we all went out to an authentic Greek restaurant for dinner. I voluntarily tried the grape leaves and various other strange appetizers on the table and shared a bottle of retsina with him. I really enjoyed everything too. I never would have made it to that point without him pushing me to try new things.
The absolute best part about that dinner was hearing all of his stories about when he was stationed in Greece. I swear, it was almost like being there. We were in the restaurant for over three hours, but the time flew by.
My grandfather was always very supportive of me. He came to my school plays, soccer games and was there for my high school graduation. When I started HoboTrashcan, he signed up for the newsletter and checked the site each week. Many weeks he would send me a quick email to let me know he enjoyed my column or a particular article on the site.
I know he was proud of me, but part of me is sad that he won’t be around to see where I go from here. I believe HoboTrashcan will lead to bigger and better things and I wanted him to be there to see it happen. I know he was happy to be at Brian’s wedding last November and I’m devastated that he won’t be at mine someday. I wanted to be able to show him that all of his lessons and advice paid off.
I feel like I still need him around. There is still so much more he could teach me. The man was really like a second father to me. I’m absolutely positive I wouldn’t be the man I am today without his guidance. I value every second I spent with him. He was one of the strongest, most intelligent and honorable men I have ever known.
I love you so much and I miss you, grandpa. I know I’ll see you again someday.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He also has some really hot friends. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.