Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I’ll Miss You, Grandpa!

I said goodbye to my grandpa a few weeks ago. After celebrating a really nice Easter with his wife, children, and a few grand and great grandkids, his earthly journey came to an end.

I will miss him for sure, but I do count myself fortunate to have had him in my life for so long. A lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the case of my kids do not have the wonderful opportunity to get to know their grandparents for as long as we did.

He had a very full life during his 97 years in this world. My earliest memories were of the family farm where he worked until 1976. I spent a lot of Summers at that place. The Tangen farm was known for an old chicken coop they renovated into a playhouse once the chickens were gone. There was a table and little kid chairs in there and various assorted play dishes and other toys necessary to complete the experience. My cousins and I spent hours having secret meetings in that old chicken coop, running races around it and sending the younger kids out on silly errands. Being one of the older grandchildren definitely had its privileges.

The farm also had a tire swing. There really isn’t anything like an old tire swing. You can swing back and forth, you can spin, and you can even climb on top and hang from the rope if you want to pretend your Tarzan. Many more hours were spent playing with that thing.

It was a very sad day when they retired and moved to town. But even their house in town has special memories for me. There was an unfinished basement where we could have fun playing Skittles.

What is Skittles, you may ask? It is a super cool bowling game where you place little wooden pins in various rooms on the board. On the lower right you can just barely make out an opening that resembles the letter “T”. In this opening, you place a top which has had a string wound around it. You pull the string which sends the top flying across the board. The object being to knock down as many pins as possible. The pins farthest away give you the most points. That game got many hours of playtime. I have never seen this game anyplace else.

When grandpa moved to the nursing home, the game was sold at auction, but I’m told it remains somewhere in the family. Wherever it is I hope it’s still bringing enjoyment to kids. I was talking to my mom and she said they found the original invoice for that game when they were cleaning out the house. Everything was mail-order. The game sold for $100 which was a substantial amount back then. It makes me wish us grandkids would have treated it with a little more care. Years later when most of us grandkids were getting married and having kids of our own they upgraded to a pool table and Skittles disappeared.

There was also a park across the road where we’d always travel when we went outside, or sometimes we stayed at the house and set up a game of croquet. Grandpa would always come out and sit in a lawn chair. He would chuckle at our antics. After awhile the goal wasn’t so much to win the game, but to hit such a weird or spectacular shot that Grandpa would exclaim over it. I will never forget his laugh, no one could laugh like grandpa. He made a sound that seemed to come from his whole body and you just knew how much he was enjoying himself.

Although he retired from farming, he never really stopped doing what he loved. Grandpa’s lawn was always one of the greenest in town and not a weed anywhere. It was like playing croquet on plush carpet. His garden was also in pristine shape. His tomatoes were always perfect. I could never understand how he was able to have such “seed catalog quality” looking vegetables. I sweat and weed and water and fertilize all Summer long and my garden is a joke compared to grandpa’s.

He didn’t stop at his own yard either. During the prayer service before his funeral, there was a time of sharing memories. Someone commented that she spotted grandpa one day watering petunias in the park across the street. She said something to the effect, “Melgard, those flowers aren’t your responsibility!” Grandpa looked at her said, “who else is going to do it?”

Once a farmer, always a farmer. Grandpa hated to see plants suffer. If something needed watering or weeding he got it done. He was always mowing other people’s lawns if they needed some help and any other yard or garden jobs that needed doing in his neighborhood.

I remember our walks. When grandpa wasn’t working in the yard, he was fond of walking around Hawley. Us grandkids would usually tag along. Hawley has gotten a little bigger and more modern over the years, but the Hawley of my childhood was about as close to a real life Andy Griffith’s Mayberry as you could get. Kids could run and bike all over town and no one worried too much about them. As we walked if there was anyone outside a cheerful greeting and a wave was standard procedure. I love towns where everyone knows everyone else. It is sadly lacking in our society today.

I’ve rambled long enough, how about some family pictures to look at?

Here’s a big birthday party I was actually able to attend. I’m not sure how big the photo will turn out but in the front row from left you have grandpa’s older brother Elmer, grandpa (Melgard, then 91), and younger brother Leonard. My grandma (Annie) is on the right. In the back from left is grandpa’s sister Agnes (feisty lady), another sister Clarice and her husband Alfred Amundson, then Jewell, Leonard’s wife. Leonard and Jewell are my mom’s godparents. Alas, only half the members of this photo are still alive today. Grandma, Leonard, Clarice and Alfred. If you can see them, the birthday boys are wearing fancy bolo ties. They were given to them by a distant cousin Robert who lives in Norway and manages to visit every now and again.

Here you have a better picture of the 3 kids. Grandpa, Agnes, and Leonard. Agnes was so much fun to visit with. She would have you laughing the whole conversation.

Look at this dapper gentleman sporting a fancy new flat top hat. I don’t ever remember him not wearing suspenders.

Here is grandpa and Elmer wearing some fancy Norwegian sweaters. More Christmas presents from Robert.

Finally, my favorites in the bunch. Here are the happy sweethearts. Grandpa and grandma on their wedding day, September 8, 1940.

I don’t know anything about cars, but I sure like to look at them. This is grandpa’s 1937 Studebaker. Note the “suicide” handles in the door.

Click here for the obiturary from the funeral home website if you wish to read more about my grandpa's life.

As my brother said on his Facebook page. “Goodbye grandpa, I will miss your smile and your laughter.” I will as well. Thank you for being such a wonderful part of my life.


Steve at Random said...

Nice remembrance...I only knew my Grandmas as both of my Grandpas had died. However, reading this made me wish that I had known them. Perhaps I would have such warm memories as well.

AZJim said...

Yes, it does bring back memories. We will all miss him. I remember most of the times I last saw him was when he was working at the golf course in Hawley.

Anonymous said...

So, all those "Are we there yet?" during the road trips to MN were worth it. So many people commented on his smile and laughter. It's nice to know that's what they remember most about him. He must have found that balance of knowing when to work hard and when to just enjoy the moment. I miss him too. Mom