“What a man”…. as I read this response someone posted on my Facebook page in regards to his passing I thought, wow how true. So much meaning in those three words. This could be the simplest way to sum up our grandfather but anyone that knew him knew that he was much more complex. Grandpa had so many layers that didn’t just make him a man; they made him the perfect man, and quite frankly our hero. If you were fortunate enough to know him you get it, you fully understand the Bob we all knew and loved. It’s hard to put in to words what he meant to so many people, but I will do my best to provide you with a picture of the man our grandfather was and what he taught us.
I’ve never seen a harder working man. He was up at dawn, dressed in his denim, blue button downs, a cap, complete with his cold cream jar, a pair of pliers, and a black watch where a permanent tan line forever rested. Man’s best friend typically followed along beside him as he took the same familiar steps out the front door every morning, namely Smokie and Rem.
As a fourth generation farmer he was born on the farm and died on the farm. He loved to tell us the story about the day he was born. There was an old schoolhouse where my parents live today which is just across the field from my grandparent’s home. This schoolhouse is where grandpa’s six older sisters went to school. According to grandpa they let out the whole school that day to go over and see the first “little (his last name here) boy.” We assume this is true, but now that I think about it I’m not sure if it is or not! I just heard it so many times I assume that it is. He loved to tell stories and would tell them for as long as you would listen. If only we could remember all his stories and have the ability to tuck them away in a secret vault in our memories. What I wouldn’t do for one more tractor ride full of his tales. —-Heed my advice and listen to those stories, treasure them.
Grandpa was the definition of class. His outfits were carefully selected and placed together before every mass or event. He loved to dress up and he looked damn good when he did. As a matter of fact, in discussing the absence of a suit in my husband’s closet for my grandfather’s services Grant made it very clear that purchasing one was the utmost priority, that he would not be able to look himself in the mirror if he didn’t have respectable attire to pay tribute in.
Being a farmer was in grandpa’s blood, but at his core he was the truest of gentlemen. He doted on our grandmother, always making sure she was taken care of and had what she needed. He put our grandmother on a pedestal and worked his entire life to provide for her. We will never forget how they would enter a room together, hand in hand, side by side.
Grandpa taught us about friendship. If you knew grandpa you loved him. He had the ability to touch so many people. If there was something you needed, it was yours. If you needed help, he was there. If you found yourself between a rock and a hard place, he’d help you figure your way out. You could find him on Wednesday evenings, shooting the shit around a card table with his buddies. I can remember looking out my bedroom window one evening when I was in college and watching his truck travel down the long lane back to their white, two-story farmhouse. I was in utter disbelief that it was midnight and my 85 year old grandpa was just returning home. Where were the pumpkins? The glass slipper? Was this real life?! He was breaking all the rules!
He knew no stranger and would have your life story upon introducing himself. He’d also probably know somebody that knew somebody that knew you. He always welcomed our friends and significant others in to his home passing no judgment and asking no questions. If you were a friend of ours you were a friend of his.
He taught us how to have fun and be ornery. I will never forget the hot afternoon my cousin and I spent in the ditch in front of the house. It had just rained a couple of days before and it was full of water. We rode our bikes as fast as we could down the hill and straight into the ditch, where we flipped over, covered in mud and rock scrapes. Grandpa couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about so he thought he should join in. He plopped down into that water fully clothed and wrestled and laughed with us until our bellies were sore. That same cousin and I also strung grandma and grandpa’s entire bedroom up with yarn, pulled the ol feather and shaving cream trick on grandpa and then almost sent him to the ER when we dropped a fake spider down in front of him as he walked up the steps. Before our very eyes grandpa flew backwards, down the steps and landed on his back. We looked at each other in complete horror and feared for our lives. But after getting after us, in true grandpa fashion, we got hugs and he told us how much he loved us.
Grandpa taught us about the earth, whether it be the crops in the fields or the vegetables in his garden. He would relish in the yummy goodness of a freshly picked strawberry or a peach he plucked from the tree. In the summer when we put up sweet corn he would sit down to eat a roastnear and exclaim, “By God that’s the best ear of sweet corn I’ve ever eaten,” he said this every.single.year and we laughed every.single.time. Behind the wheel of a tractor is where many of us will picture him for the rest of our lives. There was nothing quite like watching him cut hay at sunset, the scent forever ingrained in your memory, the dust still high in the sky.
He was a gentle, emotional man. Our grandfather was never afraid to let us see him cry. As a matter of fact, I remember seeing him cry often and it did not embarrassed him. He loved hard, everything and everyone. When we were little they raised hogs on the farm which meant piglets and LOTS of them. He would snatch them up and have them nestled cozily in our arms in one swift motion as we giggled with delight. He would stand there and talk to momma, assuring her that her snorting bundle of pink fuzz was in good hands while we snuggled and kissed its tiny snout. I remember watching him run his hand down a momma cow’s side while she labored with her first born. She was having a hard time and grandpa did his best to keep her calm. I saw my first baby calf born that day and it was as if it was grandpa’s first time too. He kept telling me to watch, “see what she does, see how they just know what to do.” He marveled at new life on the farm and was heartbroken when life ended.
He was the same way off the farm. He used to cry during church when I would cantor at mass, he loved to hear me sing. He would cry thinking about lost loved ones and friends taken from him too soon. He had no problem shedding a tear when holding his first great granddaughter and each one that came after. Sometimes his tears were the words he didn’t have whether it was in happy times or sad times.
Of all the things we learned from him, the most important thing he taught us was how to love. He may not have been around quite as much as grandma while we were there visiting but when he was you can bet that he made you feel like the most important person in the world. He would tell us to slow down, or “a little louder” but he listened intently to any story we told him. He showed up for us too. He and grandma were well known cheerleaders at our events; they loved to watch us show off our talents. Sometimes I would look over at him during our family Christmas’s while we gathered in a room much too small for us to fit in and I could literally see his pride radiating out of him like sunshine. —-Side note, the family does not in fact fit in that room anymore, we’ve spilled out in to the hallway but it doesn’t stop us from trying.
Grandpa was truly our superhero. We are thankful that we were chosen to be his grand babies and we are proud of who he was, what he stood for, and the legacy he left behind. For 91 years grandpa graced this earth and we are blessed to have had him to treasure for so long. His passing was like something out of a movie, those of us who witnessed his last words to family will never forget that moment we had together and with him. He passed on a Sunday morning, surrounded by his wife and six children. It seemed only fitting that Farmer Bob would pass on God’s day of rest just before sunrise. It was a beautiful day to join his family and friends as an angel in heaven. I know he’s already found his place among the clouds and is looking down on each of us, giving us the strength to face life without him here.
I found this online and it has helped me cope with his passing.
“We knew that morning that God would call you your name. In life we loved you dearly, in death we do the same. It broke our hearts to lose you; you did not go alone; for part of us went with you the day God called you home. You left us peaceful memories, your love is still our guide; and though we cannot see you, we feel you at our side. Our family chain is broken and nothing seems the same; but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.”
Carpe the Hell Out of Your Diem…. I know he did