Today my Grandpa Bob would be 81 years old! So, first and foremost, Happy Birthday Gramps! I love you and miss you!
When I think back 10 years ago when he passed I realized how young I really was. To do justice to how long ago ten years was picture this: a 16 year old girl driving around a 1987 dented Chevy Cavalier, named White Lightening, bagging groceries at the local Price Chopper, feverishly taking pictures for the high school yearbook, and a gallon of milk cost on average $ 1.19. I knew nothing about life but thought I knew everything. I mean, doesn’t every 16 year old? I thought my parents didn’t have a clue about what life was really all about, and I thought I was invincible to anything bad.
Growing up my family spent pretty much every weekend of the summer at the Lake of the Ozarks. My Grandpa lived there basically full time. I still remember Friday afternoons in elementary school when my Grandma would come and pick my cousins and me up and we would head out early to beat the weekend lake traffic. It was a great place; we had a blast every time, and made memories that we still talk about years later. Some people may think the best part of the lake would be skiing and tubing, picnics on the ‘little island,’ or dancing at the Salty Dog. But for us, the best part of the lake was being with our Grandpa. He wasn’t a normal Grandpa, pretty much a fact about everyone in my family. He was active, always up for a good time, and loved to cause a little trouble, and then pretend like he had no involvement. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I look back and recognize what we always thought of as a vacation was actually a lot of work for him. He would wake up early and make sure everything was ready to go before we were up; washing off the stairs and dock, watering the flowers, untangling fishing pools, drying towels from the day before, and working on any project that needed to be fixed. By the time we would get up the boat would be cleaned out and loaded with the essentials for the day, gas tank full, and lunch packed, ready for any adventure. He never once complained about the amount of work or complete and udder chaos we caused, he just enjoyed it. He did it and did it over again; maybe it was the Old Milwaukie Light can that usually accompanied him. But, in all honestly he was such a hardworking man; he was retired but still built houses and decks on the lake.
One of the things I love most about him was his desire to have fun every single day. He had a smile I will never forget, a laugh that was ornery, and he loved to bite our ears when we would hug him. He had so many friends and he made the most of every day, I can remember laughing so much my cheeks would hurt. He loved a morning screw driver or bloody mary, dressed fashionable for his age, always smelled like a bottle of cologne, loved to floss his teeth, crossed his leg when he sat, called everyone ‘sweety,” and always forgot sunscreen on his baldspot. He would dance if there was music, sing if it was an old time song he liked, and loved taking night time boat rides. He wasnt afraid to start a food fight, people nicknamed him ‘Bobber,’ he was a great fisherman, and even though he tried well to hide it I am pretty sure he smoked ciggarettes all of his life. The man did everything at full speed which caused him to always have a bump or bruise, or a Popeye muscle for that matter. Okay, story time… One Sunday afternoon I was trying to soak up every extra ray of sun I could before heading back home. Well, it was nearing 5pm and I was still lying on the deck listening to my boom box (yea, it was pre-iPod era) and my grandpa was moving at 100 miles an hour to get things done. He was covering the boat, removing the toys, putting everything in the dock house, and washing off the boards. When he went to snap the cover on the front of the Cobalt he leaped over the front of the boat. His leg got caught on the cord to my boom box. Instantly he fell into the water and was all tangled around the boat lift, he tore his shirt and shorts, and his glasses ended up all cockeyed on his face. P-Diddy stopped playing as my radio crashed into the water, gone forever. Apparently he must have hit his bicep really hard on one of the poles because his muscle was indefinitely separated from the rest of his arm. So anytime he would flex this ball of muscle would roll up to the top. We named it his Popeye muscle because it made him look like it was really strong. I am sure it hurt him terribly, but he never complained he just laughed it off, and flexed a lot to show everyone.
He was a terrific man and I could tell his stories for days, there are so many funny ones. But just know my Grandpa lived every day as if it was his last. He loved people and having a good time. At 70 years old he could still party with the best of them. I treasure the years we had together, especially since they were limited. He passed away unexpectedly 10 years ago of an aneurism, after about 8 hours of emergency surgery he just couldn’t make the fight any longer. I still remember how packed the hospital was and how many people were there to support him. It really makes me realize how precious life is and how much you should enjoy the people around you. That day changed my life forever and even though I can’t make new memories with him, I still think about all of the times we did have together. I can only imagine how much fun he would still be having here at 81, and I am sure he would act like he was in his twenties.
Happy Birthday Grandpa!
I would like to invite anyone to share a funny story in the comments below about him.