On Saturday, we lost Ben’s grandfather.
With Grandpa, we lost a wonderful, caring man, but we also lost a legacy. Grandpa epitomized all that small town farm life was all about. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. No one left talking to him without a smile on their face and in their hearts. Famous for his farm tours and overflowing pride for his farm and family, Grandpa loved to talk. A quick stop at his house always resulted in a long conversation, complete with the latest thing Grandpa just had to show you. Others may not have gotten a word in edgewise, but they would be enjoying themselves too much to notice.
Flashing gold teeth,various pinky rings, and slicked back, jet-black hair, Grandpa was a old-time farmer with a secret mafia side. When he rolled up in his gleaming, chrome-accented Cadillac, adjusted his ever-present suspenders, and strode confidently through the parking lot, people scrambled to get out off the way, assuming that he was The Boss.
Which, of course, he was.
At his funeral, the pastor told a story about Grandpa that I had never heard before. When Grandpa and Grandma built a new house next to the farm, just one house over from their original home, Grandpa wasn’t about to change his address. No, sir. So he took his gold teeth and suspenders straight up to the post office–and somehow convinced the United States Postal Service to change, so he could keep his address. I love that story.
Working at the same hospital where my mother-in-law has worked for over twenty years, I’ve gotten used to all of my patients catching a glimpse of my name badge, their eyes lighting up when they see my last name.
“Oh, do you know Dave and Ann?” they ask me excitedly.
I used to smile and laugh a little to myself at the frequent question. I’d shake my head to myself, thinking, Oh, these old-timers, small-town thinkers. Why are they always talking about who-knows-who? What does it matter if my dad went to school with your uncle who once jumped in the pond by the barn that your great-aunt owned and was burned down in the great fire of ’61?
As I’ve grown older (and wiser?), though, I welcome it.
“Of course I know them,” I say proudly. “They are my grandparents! My mother-in-law works here too, and my husband is a teacher and we have two little girls!” I gush.
My patients eat it up. They love hearing the stories of people they once knew, the new generations sprouting up all over.
We all want to know we are connected. That we belong somewhere. That there are others out there who care about our past and our stories and our connections to others.
Through marriage, I have been connected to a wonderful family who is grieving for the loss of The Boss.
A simple man with John Deere suspenders and a legacy of farm life, of love, of family.
A simple question…
“Oh, do you know Dave…?”
I’m going to miss them both.