Friday, May 6, 2011


When my grandfather died unexpectedly in 1995, I didn’t realize the void that was left in my life. My grandfather was known to be a difficult and stubborn man: a strict disciplinarian, at times, and a patient teacher during other times. I cannot recall anyone who enjoyed riding in a car with him as he was the perfect example of road rage. I recall cringing in the restaurants when he ordered his coffee black yet the server brought him cream on the side. When I moved to Georgia a few years ago, I discovered two old boxes filled with newspaper wrapped glassware in my parent’s garage that once belonged to him. I assumed the boxes ended up there after his death but the newspaper was dated in 1992 – the year he moved to South Carolina from Pennsylvania. Over the weekend I spent a couple of hours carefully unwrapping the glass to reveal the familiar etching of the family crest centered in each piece. I braved the dust and insect parts, all the while the memories came flooding back and I realized just how much I miss him.

He was the only grandfather I ever knew as my maternal grandfather died when I was very young. He followed my family from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and finally South Carolina.

When we lived in New Jersey, I remember a time he took my sister and me out of school so we could see the circus in New York City. Afterwards, he brought us to a restaurant for lunch and let us order pancakes covered in fresh blueberries.

In Pennsylvania, I had a standing dinner date with him every Tuesday night and I never broke it. I flew out to Pennsylvania in 1992 to help him move to South Carolina. He drove the U-Haul and I drove his Hyundai (Hi-Yoon- Dye) Excel. I didn’t realize that U-Hauls could go that fast and his little car couldn’t keep up with the pace he had set. He also had exactly two cassette tapes in the car: German Polka Dances and Beginning Spanish Tape 4. After several hours of practicing Spanish, I finally caught up to him just in time for a coffee (black) break.

He was a lifelong Rotarian and usually my sister and I were invited to his awards dinner each year. All of that changed the year Liz and I lit the centerpiece on fire at the Wilcox Inn. What can I say – we were old enough to know better but bored enough to not care.

He would take me to the opera in Augusta several times a year and I have not been to one since his death. I simply haven’t found someone who appreciates it as much as he did.

He would cuss at the dog in German, drive like a maniac, slip a few naughty slides in the carousal of the endless family slide shows, catalog all of his Playboy and Penthouse videos in a little notebook with a wish list to the side of the ones he was missing, swear that leaving a layer of dirt and grime on his car prevented the police from getting an accurate reading off the radar gun, force the family to eat goose each Christmas, claim to hate cats but be caught playing with our family cat and a ball of string, work on his never-ending novel, drink massive amounts of coffee each day, insist that burning his toast got all of the sugar out of it so he could eat it (he was diabetic), sneak off to another town to eat a cookie but still get caught, cook the best pork and sauerkraut I ever had, and insist that steak be eaten rare – bloody rare (don’t even ask for the A-1 sauce if you valued your life).

It’s been over 16 years – I can’t believe that so much time has passed. So many Christmases without him acting as Santa Claus. So many Tuesdays without my dinner companion. So many things I’d like to share with him. So many reasons to miss my Grandpa.