Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
TITLE: A Grandpa to Behold – Love letter to my Grandfather
By Petra van der Zande
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
Visiting you and Grandma always brought me in a holiday mood. The musty smell of the house, mixed with your cigars would linger on my clothes for days and revive precious memories.
Dinner-time was a feast, not only because of the “expensive” meat Grandma always served, but also because we didn’t have a garden to look out at while eating.
We loved your practical jokes, when you tried to steal the meat from our plates the moment we turned around to look at a presumed bird in the garden. Then your usually frowned, serious face would be transformed by your laugh as you returned the food. Older and wiser, we kept our hands protectively over our plates before looking behind us.
While eating, your clacking false teeth spoke of a good appetite. You ate little, but often, because you had a history of bleeding stomach ulcers and subsequent operations. But you never complained and learned to live with it. After the meal, your glasses perched on top of your receding, grey speckled hair, you’d squint your pale brown eyes, and in a soft but authoritative voice read a Bible passage. As a retired headmaster you believed in strictness. Giggling grand-daughters were irreverent and not tolerated. We revered and adored you.
After your siesta, we sometimes drank tea in the garden and admired and sampled the well kept fruit and vegetables from the plots you were so proud of. Your tall, lean frame belied the strength that allowed you to do heavy gardening. While we were young we loved to play with the sand you especially collected from the nearby forest.
When the noise in the crowded living room became too much for you, you’d turn off your hearing-aid. Your frowned, long face with protruding lower lip would wrinkle in concentration as you solved a cryptogam or crossword.
How I loved the educational excursions that were always part of the summer holidays. Via scenic routes you brought me to places I never would have seen otherwise. Old castles, little villages with a rich history - you opened a whole new world for me.
Tutoring was in your blood.
Your house was always open for a weak pupil, often the son of a farmer who needed to strengthen his math or grammar skills. You believed in them, encouraged them to never give up.
At the end of each visit, you always accompanied the family to the car. Then you’d take my face in your soft, warm hands, and say:
“Safe journey home, Petertcha!” (Little Peter) Only you called me by the male version of my name.
Christmas with you was another highlight. The tree (you illegally cut from the forest) was heavy with tiny, colored balls and little lights. There were almond cookies with a whole in the middle (made with real butter) and chocolates with a red ribbon around it.
You lived a full and rich life.
And then you decided that being 92 years, was old enough. That day, the radio warned people to stay inside - the wind-chill-factor was extreme. Mama implored you not to go out, but you decided anyhow to walk to the shop. Why, Grandpa? You were still strong and healthy; you and Grandma still lived independently and did well.
You didn’t suffer from the fatal cerebral hemorrhage, but for Grandma and us it was such a terrible loss. I couldn’t believe you were gone, and I had to kiss you goodbye for the last time. You looked so peaceful, Grandpa.
During the funeral I listened to the many stories people shared about you. Suddenly, my sadness was replaced by pride and happiness. You were so special to all those grateful pupils, who when they grew older, introduced their wives, husbands and children to you. You had seen their potential, encouraged and motivated them - with wonderful results. They always stayed in touch.
Only now I realize I’ve inherited so much from you, Grandpa. The love for history, for the Bible, the hunger to keep learning. And the legacy of compassion for the weak in society. You never met them, but I’m sure you would have loved our special needs foster children.
I still miss you, dear Grandpa, but my memories of you are like pearls on a string – precious.
I thank God for your life, and when we meet in heaven, I hope you’ll greet me again with “Petertcha!”
Your granddaughter, Christina.
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