Re: my grandpa

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We drive on a blustery day to Moorhead, my parents and I. I sit in the backseat, reading a book, as my dad drives and my mom keeps him alert for the journey. As usual, it is a long, boring drive, made even more so with the cover of snow over all the land along the interstate. We make our usual halfway stop in Alexandria, gassing up, grabbing a snack, and using the restroom. When we step out of our SUV, we are assaulted with the blowing snow. I race to and from the car, having shed my coat in the overheated vehicle.

As I ride, listening to talk radio and the hum of the motor, I think of my grandpa, Bill. The scrapbook I made of his time in the South Pacific during WWII is next to me. He was the last grandparent of mine to die. He had dementia for 10 years, and lived the last two in a nursing home. Bill did not know anyone, or remember anything. An exception to this was when I last visited him, he motioned to me and said, “this one is special.” For a fleeting moment, there was a look of recognition in his face as he peered at me. Indeed, he was special to me. My only grandpa, not even related. Yet, he always treated me as his own.

We finally get to Moorhead, and slither through the snow packed streets to the funeral home for Bill’s memorial. Since he was a war veteran, he has a folded flag on his casket. I fondly remember when he would show me his scrapbook of photos from his service in the South Pacific islands. He was a Navy mechanic, stationed in New Guinea. He loved to regale me with tales from his time there. Bill took many photos, of the natives in their grass skirts and afros, of his band of brothers, of the bombed out buildings in the Philippines, and of the airplanes that he fixed. He was so proud of his service, and so was I. When he was admitted to the nursing home, I received his scrapbook. The book was falling apart, so I moved all the photos into a newly decorated one. Even though he couldn’t remember his time in the South Pacific, he had marveled at those pictures.

I bring this book to the memorial so everyone can look at it. Bill never had any sons or grandsons, but he did have a great-grandson, Dustin. As Dustin is looking at the pictures, I suddenly become inspired to give Dustin the book. I believe that grandpa would have wanted him to have it.

The next day is yet another cold day, but at least it isn’t a blizzard. In the morning we have the funeral, and I give the eulogy. I talk about his life, his service to his country, and how his was the greatest generation. After the funeral, we drive out to Halstad, where my grandpa was to be buried next to my grandma. It is a little country town centered on miles and miles of fields, all of which are covered in snow. I feel trapped in a sea of white. We drive up to the little country church, which looks so picturesque surrounded by all the snow. The cemetery is well cared for, tombstones scattering the ground, mostly family plots. As we get to my grandparent’s plot, the casket is under a tent, with the folded flag on top. The minister gives the flag to my aunt, and we hear the 21-gun salute and “Taps” being played. This song makes us all cry, as it stirs our souls. My cousins and I get the casings from the bullets.

I think of how proud I was that Bill served our country, and all the times he was proud of me. He taught me to fish, and laughed at how much I could catch. My grandpa also taught me how to play cribbage, and he would tell anyone who would listen at the Piggly-Wiggly how smart I was.

We drive home later that day. Again, it is long, boring drive. All I see are miles and miles of snow. It gives me time to remember my grandpa, a great man, a great friend. I still miss him. I am still proud of him. He was dedicated to his country, and dedicated to his family. As I said during the eulogy at his funeral, his was the greatest generation.