He passed away about an hour ago–my Granddad, just one day shy of his 82nd birthday. And I’m sitting in a dark loft looking at the pictures I took of him last summer when I spent a week on the “ranch” with him and my Grandma before coming back to Utah.
I keep hearing his voice answer the phone. The way he’d say “Hello” with the accent on the “He” and a scoop in pitch as he made his way to the “llo.” And I’d say, “Hi Granddad!” and he’d answer, “Well, which one are you?” “It’s Krista.” “Krista! You’re my favorite! Where are you calling from?” “I’m still in Utah.” “Well you sound like you’re right next door.”
He answered the phone the same way every time, regardless of whether it was me or my sisters. And we all knew he meant it when he’d tell us we were his favorite.
Granddad could read a mean storybook. And he’d do it for hours on end. When I was a little girl, he’d pull me up onto his lap and we’d read. And read. And read.
And he’d scratch my back. And we’d play “hot spots.” And then, when I would climb down he’d catch me in the “clampers” as I was walking away. The clampers were his legs, and if we girls walked “too close” past his recliner, they would pop up from the floor and grab us in a lock and toss us back and forth. And every time, we would squeal and laugh as if we hadn’t seen it coming. Or as if we hadn’t walked “too close” on purpose.
Every Sunday we’d go to Grandma and Granddad’s for dinner. Granddad sat at the head of the table and clockwise from him sat Grandma, then me, then Kaycie, then Mom, then Karly, and then Dad. Every week. And before anyone ever took a bite, Granddad would announce, “Well. Everything’s very good girls.” Every week. And then Grandma would roll her eyes.
At some point during the meal, you could always count on him to ask if any of us had ever heard the “famous Maurer horseradish story.” And everyone would groan (in jest) because he’d told it a million times. That was part of the joke–part of his shtick. And he loved it. But I always answered no, that I hadn’t heard it before. Because I always wanted to hear it–not that there was much to it. But it was a great story and I loved hearing him tell it. “We’d have been bigger than Heinz.”
When we were in plays or recitals, no matter the size or prominence of our part, at the end of our performance during the curtain calls, he’d yell so loud from the audience, “Yaaaaaay Krista!” It was so embarrassing. But you also listened for it, and could count on it, just like the horseradish story, or the clampers.
I can see his hands, particularly his fingers–the way they extended long and straight. He kept a calendar by his chair and when I finally left home for college, he began writing the days I’d be coming home for Christmas and summer vacations. “Let me get my calendar,” he’d say. “Now when are you coming home? I need to write this in.”
Last year, after my summer on Hilton Head, I took a week to stay with him and Grandma and one night after they’d gone to bed, I sat in his chair and reached down for the calendar. Sure enough, there in his scratchy, wobbly handwriting was my name and a line extending through the days I’d be visiting.
One afternoon, the afternoon before I was to fly back, I found him sitting in his gun room with all his tools and knives and ammunition and coins–a collector, he was. He had big-band jazz playing on the stereo and we spent the better part of the afternoon talking–him telling stories mostly. Some I’d heard, some I hadn’t.
And when it was time to head in for dinner, I gave him a hug and thanked him for a perfect afternoon. To which he replied, “You’re my favorite, you know.”
Yes, I know.