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.