Sunday, June 16, 2013

Breakfast Buffet

Great DadsIn 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to have breakfast with my dad and grandpa every few weeks at a local diner. Dad and I would drive out to a small town near where Grandpa lived, about a half hour away. We picked him up and sat down for their Saturday breakfast buffet and bottomless coffee.  While it started out as bottomless coffee, Grandpa soon was on a liquid restriction diet, and even one cup was not good for him. See, his kidneys were failing as well as his eyesight and most of the rest of him. That will happen when you cross into your 90s. Grandpa ended up passing away in 2011, but it was these last meals with him that I hold dearest of all my memories of him.

And I have a few.

I grew up in a large family. Not that my immediate family was large but my extended family, Grandpa's 7 kids, 17 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren  plus spouses, spouses families, close friends, church friends, cousins, etc. were all a part of my family growing up. Truth-be-told, I have never been able to remember half the names of the people who show up to our family gatherings. And at the center of it all, was always Grandpa. With a smile on his face, a positive word, and joy in his voice grandpa was there. We would take over the church basement for a reunion, and no house could contain us for any given holiday.

When I made it to high school and began participating in sports, there were two people I could count on to be there every baseball game, every cross-country meet, every track event: my dad, and Grandpa. Even with all that family, he would make the time to come see me run a 5K or play right field or attempt a long jump. Grandpa was there on the bleachers in the rain or the cold or the heat, cheering me on, letting me know I was important.

As a kid, my family would visit Grandpa and Grandma at their house in the country. It was an old house, the one my father grew up in. But it was everything a kid could want. They had a toy chest containing many of Dad's childhood toys in the upstairs bedroom that my brothers and I would empty and occupy ourselves with. Grandma would make a nice meal, Grandpa always had something awesome to show us. We would head out to his backyard and play in the trees, or pick apples from the crab apple tree to try to feed the neighbors horse, or if we were lucky, Grandpa would let us go through his garage to see what amazing tools and "junk" he had.

The breakfasts though were different. They were one of the first times I interacted with him as a grownup and as a dad. I heard stories of when my dad was young. He told tales of his time serving in the war. We talked about first cars and sports and summers past. We drank our bottomless coffee and I watched him innocently flirt with the waitress (Grandma passed away 20 years earlier, and he never remarried) who was younger than him, but not by much. After breakfast, we would head back to his place and talk about his coin collection, work still needing to be done on his house, the Cubs, his legacy or whatever else we might come up with any given day. These are the days I appreciate the most. This is the lasting memory I have of him. He was a great man, and a grat grandfather. This Father's Day, I am thankful to be able to call him my grandpa.

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