Grandpa was 46 when I was born, the first grandchild of five. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of the weft of my life tapestry. My first memories are mixed in with scents of their house, scrambled eggs, hot coffee, cinnamon toast, pine needles from the trees surrounding their house.
I was never too little, never too young, never kept from sharing his interests even though I was a girl. When they lived in Spring, Texas he would take us on walks through the pine woods around his house, pine needles crunching beneath our feet in the still air, pointing out trees and animals that seemed hidden to a small child.
I remember him leaving in the mornings for work, black lunchbox packed, and thermos full of coffee. Coming back covered in brick dust from building skyscrapers in Houston. He would have stories of his day to share while he changed into his professor clothes to go teach his evening courses at college.
On the weekends, he would show us the buildings he had helped build. He would point out where he had left his mark or signature worked into the design of the granite or brick buildings.
As we got older, my grandparents moved to the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston. Many more summers and vacations were spent here, walking the trails and learning from grandpa.
One of the most memorable was when I was not much older than my children are now. Apparently, nine is the perfect age for Earl grey tea. Grandpa drank hot tea every evening, but this night he brewed a cup for each of us, explaining how the tea brewed, the scent of Earl Grey tea filling the kitchen. He’d brew tea for each of us to share with him while the evening would down. After tea, was time to read and he chose to immerse us the world of J.R.R Tolkien’s the Hobbit. He enthralled us in the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Golem and Smaug the dragon. I can still here his voice as he read the words of Golem and the deep throaty voice he used for Smaug. He passed his love for tea and adventures of Tolkien’s world on to all of us, but he didn’t just leave us with Tolkien and tea, he encouraged each of his grandchildren in their pursuits and hobbies. After he retired to Marion, he had the opportunity to help us mature from teenagers to young adults. We got to have not only our grandparents down the street, but an avid supporter of our passions. I feel in each of us, he saw aspects of himself mirrored back at him.
Grandpa loved to bicycle and still rode into the early 1990’s. He always encouraged us to ride with him. When they were still living in the Woodlands, we would all spend hours riding our bikes on the paths through the woods. While we all loved to ride, Catherine caught his passion. They would spend hours riding together. He also helped her train when she was preparing for bicycle races.
In Sarah, was mirrored his passion for teaching. Both he and Sarah were Emporia State University Alumni. He had to have been proud to have one of his granddaughters follow in his footsteps to give others the gift of knowledge.
Freddy followed in his footsteps and joined the Navy continuing a heritage of Military service. Catherine also joined the Army and was inspired by her grandfather’s service to his country.
Suzanne, while in the Marines for a brief period, shared Grandpa’s love for target shooting. He inspired her to become a better marksman.
I fell in love with photography and could not have asked for a better mentor or teacher. We could spend hours talking about techniques, what other photographers had done, and equipment. I was never more privileged than when he let me join him at coffee for a school photography assignment. He has helped me hone my art.
All of us share his love of reading. Any visit to his house would invariably lead to a discussion of what we were reading, what we enjoyed, and old and new favorite authors. We would always leave with either new books or lists of new authors to discover. Without grandpa, I never would have discovered J.R.R Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, or Julian May on my own.
Even though we are still on the road, and he’s taken a different lane, pieces of him will still live on in us, his friends, his children, his grandchildren, his greats and his greats to be. He inspired us with the best parts of himself, each of us getting a share to carry along the road.
So Jack, the road goes ever on and on and we’ll see you when each of us is done, waiting for us, surrounded by new friends with a mug and a story an the inn.