Because I Knew You, I Have Been Changed For Good.

Grandpa3

I am constantly in awe at how quickly life can change.

Two years ago, I was working as a nanny in Belgium.  This week in 2007, the family I was living with had planned a skiing trip in the Alps.  I was so excited to go, and to mark off another item from my Lifetime List of Things to Do.  Two days before we were scheduled to leave for the Alps, however, I got a call from my sister saying that my grandpa was dying, and everyone back home had canceled their Spring Break plans.

Right away, I talked to my employers, and, though disappointed [I don’t think they understood how close-knit my family is], they said I would still have a job when I returned.  There was never really a question as to whether I would try to get to Mesa before he died.  I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but luckily I arrived 20 hours before he slipped away.    I will never regret that choice.

It was an incredibly tender time, and I say that in all seriousness (because I’m not tender often, so I have to qualify the times when I really mean it; I mean it today).

You can read the solemn saga here,  if you’re so inclined.

To say that my grandpa was a good man would be an understatement, so I won’t say it.  Instead, I will say that of the handful of men who have affected my life for the better, my grandpa was among the most influential…

1953 GrandpaDashing, wasn’t he?

It was because of my grandpa that I ever thought to look for callouses on boys’ hands.  I didn’t like dating boys who had soft, smooth hands; calloused palms indicated hard work, and that was important to me.

It was because of my grandpa that I almost became a farm girl.  (Seriously.)

It was because of him that I learned to love Arizona, in spite of myself.  He taught me to value family more than friends, and people more than stuff.

My grandpa didn’t believe in the stock market—he invested his money into real estate.  To this day, I am inclined to do the same {who am I kidding—I don’t have any money}.

Grandpa1My grandpa sure did love his grandkids.

When I was a little girl, my grandpa signed up all the older grandkids (I believe there were six of us) for a hunter’s safety course.  One night a week for several months, my grandpa picked us up, hauled us out to class, studied the lessons, took the final exam with us, and proudly patted us on the back when we all became certified gun-people.  (I’ve never actually hunted, and I don’t really condone it, but I didn’t know that at the time.  Anyway, it was sweet, and one of my favourite early memories of him.)  Almost always, he would stop by McDonald’s™ to treat us all to french fries on our way home.  He really liked treats.

Grandpa2

I have never tasted a tomato—nor do I ever expect to—that rivaled the ones grown by my grandpa every summer.  His magic hands could turn any clod of dirt into earthen gold.

My grandpa’s favourite song was “I Am a Happy Wanderer,” but he didn’t travel much.

Grandpa4

He used to tell me, “No boys like to be chased.”  He was right, and I did best to remember that.

The weekend I got engaged, he went into the hospital and basically stayed there until he died (they moved him back home for his last few days).  One night, a few weeks after I’d gotten engaged, I was staying with my grandpa (we took shifts as a family, staying with him in the hospital; I don’t think he spent a single waking hour alone in the hospital) and I made him sign a contract that he would stick around long enough to come to my reception.

Grandpa's contract(His penmanship was illegible on a good day.  In the hospital, attached to an oxygen supply?  Forget it.)

He signed, but on the condition that the reception be held in his backyard {I’d have had it no other way}.  He got right on it, delegating yard work that was to be done nearly a year in the future, so that his place would be in prime condition for the big day…

Wedding Reception1

…I upheld my end of the bargain, and had the reception at his house.  I wish I could say that he made it.  But he died seven months too soon.  He was a man of his word, though, and I can’t imagine he’d like to break his promise.

Wedding2I believe that he was there, in a sense: In spirit.

Has anyone changed your life to such an extent that you don’t even know what aspects of yourself are your own?

Would I have decided to value hard work, if my grandpa had been a different person?

Would I say “dadgummit,” if he hadn’t taught me how?

About Camille

I’m Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello.

You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.

This entry was posted in change, family, I hate change, looking back, sad things. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Because I Knew You, I Have Been Changed For Good.

  1. jacque says:

    What a sweet post. I know how hard it is to loose someone who is so close and special in your life. I don’t think you ever let them go. As long as you have memories of them they will live on through you. Well, at least I like to think so.

  2. Lindsay says:

    this was a lovely tribute to your grandpa. i bet he was a wonderful man. i’d like to meet him one day, and introduce him to my grandpa. i think they’d get along.

  3. Jenny says:

    I love coming to your blog. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us can’t. We’re hoping to make it up home to Canada in May… so hopefully we’ll see you then! Until then, I look forward to your posts. :)

  4. Kathryn says:

    A few months ago I saw a tractor coming down Extension just like your grandpa always did. I got all excited and thought, “Bro. Leavitt has been reserected,” but nope it was someone else. Someday. He was a good man and I know a lot of people are better from knowing him.

  5. kate lines says:

    beautiful.

    (i love wicked.)

  6. chelsie says:

    You know this is a breaking point for me, but I am here bawling and had to comment. . .
    The day I got the letter about your grandpa I was on a split on the mission. It was a Wednesday and I awoke excited to have mail. I remember reading the serene letter your mom wrote me and looking at the news article of his funeral, and I bawled all day. I didn’t even know him that well, but you know he was part of my family too.

    I love you!!!

  7. anna says:

    I was never close to my grandpas (both “real” grandpas never lived to see me and I saw my one step-grandpa every summer but only until I was 9 or so), so I enjoy seeing/reading/hearing these tender memories/stories.

  8. nancy face says:

    I will always remember your grandpa. I truly loved him, as did my entire family.

    One Sunday, when Lauren was maybe 6 or 7 years old, the ward held a special fast for him, because his heart was beating terribly fast and wouldn’t slow down to normal. We were all so worried about him.

    Not only did the adults and teenagers fast and pray in his behalf, but also little children. They did it willingly. I remember Lauren and her older brother Ty being glad to fast…it was the first time they had fasted with a purpose, and it had special meaning for them. We were all so happy when your grandpa got better!

    I loved when he would talk about the “Friends of Scouting” donation drive every year. I can still hear him telling us that it cost so much more to keep a boy in prison than it did to keep him in scouting! :)

    At his funeral, I was so touched to hear all the sweet tributes from every grandchild. I cried a lot. Then I was so happy to take home a tomato plant of his and let it grow in our garden. :)

  9. Katie says:

    Really touching, Camille. Its nice to see this softer side of you once in a while. I’m sure your Granddad was just as thankful for having you in his life.

  10. Carmen says:

    What a tribute. I also feel the same way about my grandfathers although I didn’t even know my one. He died before I was born, but I know from what I have read, the things said and my own feelings that he was a great, great man in so many ways, well all ways. My other grandpa, well Jeff’s technically, but mine too, he was also an incredible man. They don’t come like that anymore, not even my Jeff. Isn’t it nice to know for sure that we will one day see them again?

  11. Tessa says:

    Amazing Camille!

  12. raygon says:

    This was a great post. Your grandparents and parents are some of my favorite people. You are lucky to have such a great heritage.

  13. Whitney says:

    Your grandpa was seriously so cute. This was a great post. thanks for sharing.

  14. Christal says:

    What an awesome tribute to your grandpa ! What a great post and a great question we learn so much from those that go ahead of us! ttys

  15. Marion Naylor says:

    Camille, this post is the sweetest you’ve ever done, I loved it. Speaking of your grampa’s favorite song, “The Happy Wanderer”, I play it all the time for the residents here in my lodge. They love it too, such a light-hearted song, spirited music.

  16. jethro says:

    I love that song too, and i’m not much of a traveller. A wonderfully touching post, You’ve reminded me of the great people i have known, family and friends, some passed on, some not, that had such a great influence on myself, for the good.
    Thank you.

  17. sarah says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post Camille. It was very real. Although you are funny and that’s a great quality, I also love your seriousness. Your grandpa seems like he was an awesome man!

  18. EverybodyNose says:

    Absouloutely heart warming!

  19. Holly Decker says:

    a great tribute… wish i wouldve known him :)

    has anyone ever been like that for ME in my life? its a good question… and i am positive there are many. i will have to get back to you on it, though.

  20. Cyndi says:

    Oh, how sweet! Great pix, too. I need to get some pix of my beloved Gramma scanned – she was just like that for me. I can’t separate what is because of her and what would’ve been anyway. She lived to hold my babies for 6 months, made them laugh the first time and it completed my heart in many ways. Thank you for sharing your sweet grandfather with us, and for reminding us all of the characters who shape us <3

  21. anon10 says:

    That was just how my grandma was for me. It’s great to have people like that in our lives!

  22. anonymous says:

    very sweet and thought-provoking post.. what aspects of myself are my own? thanks.

  23. Rachel says:

    That was beautiful. My grandpa just turned 95 on the first, and I have very similar feelings about him and hope I get a few more years with him. And he was also very dashing in his younger days. His song though? He still enjoys warbling “Oh, my darling I am growing ollllllder, silver hairs among the gold….” It’s pretty cute.

  24. ann says:

    Loved this post!
    I have very similar feelings for my Grandparents and I was touched by the things you shared! ~ Very well written!

  25. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful tribute.

  26. colepack says:

    awwww, how sweet. Grandpa’s are the best

  27. Heber says:

    This was a very touching post, Camille. Makes me miss my Grandfather, thank you.

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