Sunday, September 14, 2008

Remembering Grandpa

In a few weeks, Iwanski and I are planning a trip up to Cheeseland to see my family. As part of the trip, we are planning to surprise my Grandma Diedrich (pronounced “Deed-rick”—yes, very German) by visiting her on her 93rd birthday. I can’t wait to see the smile on her face as we walk through her door.

I have realized that I’m very lucky, at my age, to still have a living grandparent. My Grandma is the first of five generations of us, and although she has lots of physical complaints (who wouldn’t, at age 93?), her mind is still going strong. And she is also a very sweet, loving person.

Often, when I think about my Grandma, I also think about my Grandpa, her late husband. Grandpa Diedrich died when I was in sixth grade, but I still remember him so well.

I loved my Grandpa Diedrich. In my eyes, he was just the jolliest, happiest guy around. He worked as a janitor in the public schools of the small town where I grew up, but from his attitude, you would think he was a millionaire. I’m sure there were times when he felt sad or angry, but I don’t remember ever seeing a frown on his face. Whenever I think of him, I think of him with a big smile on his face, his eyes twinkling, teasing me about one thing or another—like how I pronounced the word “peas.” (Like a true Wisconsinite, I pronounced it with two syllables: “pee-ahs.”)

I also remember that Grandpa paid lots of attention to me. I remember that he had a bar in his basement, and he would regularly make me “kiddie cocktails” (cherry juice and 7-Up, with lots of marachino cherries in the glass). Then, after a party at his house, when there were lots of dirty glasses and stir-sticks littering the bar, I would help him clean it up. He would always reward me with a big smile and a big shiny quarter. (Wow, how much money a quarter seemed to be in those days!) I would also get a quarter and a smile for helping him clean out his shed in the yard.

Later, when I was a little older (maybe about 11 years old), he would watch game shows on TV with me. Since I was just starting to become interested in boys, I always wanted to watch “Love Connection.” Now, I’m sure Grandpa had no interest in watching that show, but he would sit there and watch it with me, and we would both guess on which girl the guy would pick to date (or which guy the girl would pick). The funny thing was, my Grandpa always guessed correctly. It was amazing to me. I thought he must have been one of the smartest guys alive.

Grandpa died just before Christmas, in 1984. I remember coming home from school, all excited about the Christmas gifts that I’d gotten from my friends, and my older sister Holly was home early from school, just lying there on the couch. I asked her why she was home so early, and she said, “Grandpa Diedrich died today.”

I was shocked. I just sat there, feeling sad and confused. To me, I had never even considered the fact that he could die someday.

Later that night, I remember that my Mom looked exhausted and really, really sad. All I could think of to do was give her a big hug. I could imagine that she felt even sadder than I did.

And at my Grandpa’s funeral, I remember that all my brothers and sisters gathered to sing “The Prayer of St. Francis.” Ever since then, I have loved that song. “Make me a channel of your peace” is a statement I would always like to live by.

In my memories, Grandpa was definitely a channel of peace. He brought me joy and laughter, and I will never forget how he always made me feel so special and loved.

Nowadays, the show “Love Connection” has been replaced by other reality shows, like “Big Brother” and “Flavor of Love.” Although I don’t watch too many of those shows, whenever I do, I can feel my Grandpa right there beside me, always guessing the winner—and always guessing right.


Barb said...

Wow. What great memories for you. My maternal grandfather died when I was very young and I really hadn't seen him since I was 6mos old and my maternal grandmother died before I was born... my birthfather aka sperm donor's mother was NOT a nice person and fortunately I only saw her a handful of times when I was young. I always envy people with wonderful grandparents and hope to be one myself someday!

sfoofie said...

He must have been quite a person, because my first memories of life are sitting on his lap. Little 2/3 yr old me looking up into his smiling face. I also used to dream about him growing a guardian angel or something. Thanks for sharing more about him!!!

Sling said...

I had wonderful Grandparents as well.
Kind and gentle,loving and wise.
You are so lucky to have your Grandmother still in your life.
I'm sure you guys will have a memorable visit! :)

Diane said...

Chick, your grandma will be so happy to see you! You are very lucky to have a grandparent alive yet. I remember my mom would not let us girls watch Dukes of Hazzard when my grandparents came to visit because she thought they would find it too violent. :)

Anonymous said...

My wonderful Grandpa took me fishing for the first time. I caught a bull head, gave it a name. We brougt it home on the street car, in a coffee can. He nourished the bull head as much as he did me, because I gave it a name. On Friday nights first we would head for the corner store and he would buy a quart of beer for himself, a bottle of root beer for me and a bag of popcorn, We would come home and I would watch in amazment as he popped perfect corn everytime. I can still see him at or green stove on legs. Then is was game on!! The Gillett Friday Night Fights....I would jump and scream and be on side of whoever Grandpa told me we wanted to win that night as we watch the match proceed on our first t.v. a 14" Admiral. But Sundays were the best. We would go for a long walk, Grandpa showing me houses he had built and owned. Greeting friends and nieghbors, sometimes he would take me to the streetcar barn from which he retired where he would chat with old workmates, and I would chase around the the huge round red brick building, clanging street car bells. But always, always on the way home we would stop at the ice cream shop and he would buy us sundaes. I always thought sundaes were named for Sunday and could only be puchased on Sunday. Sundays with Grandpa.....seems like yesterday. he died when I was 10. I cherish these memories. I'll never get over his death. I loved that man and he loved me. M.K.

jp said...

I LOVE that he made you "cocktails." It's so fun to feel like a grownup!

I hope Grandma is well, and has many more years of life to celebrate.

rosemary said...

What a beautiful memory story. You are lucky to have them....i have very few memories of my grandparents....other than my fraternal ones didn't remember my name....called me girl and gave me a penny. I do have letters from my maternal grandmother addressed to me from my birth thru 1952 the year she passed away.

Citymouse said...

thank you for sharing that with me. I feel bad that my kids dont have grandparents in their lives (not like I did -- my gparents raised me, so I knew them very well) Ask gradma about her first kiss when you see her (It is the one question I love to ask older people, that and what their kitchen looked like growing up!)

MaryRuth said...

what a sweet story, thanks for sharing it

Miss Healthypants said...


It was interesting to hear all your grandparent stories--some happy, some not so much...but such is life.

JP--I LOVED those kiddie cocktails, too! :)

Citymouse--I will TOTALLY ask my Grandma about her first kiss when I see her! How fun! Let me know if you have any other interesting questions I can ask her! *smiles*