Grumpy Grandpa

My grandpa passed away Friday night.  He was 96, and ill, and so it was not surprising or even, to me, particularly sad.  I was thankful that we had visited with him a few months ago, prior to his foray into the hospital and nursing home, while he was still at home and still able to discuss the oil business with my husband.
My grandpa was not the kind of grandpa to bounce me on his knee, or to play with me, or even to smile much.  He was, to be completely frank, a gruff and grumpy man.  He would sit at the head of the dinner table, in complete silence, not joining in the dinner table conversation or even acknowledging that other people were there.  His plate was always filled, not by him.  My grandma would sit beside him, only sometimes asking if he wanted more before filling his plate.  He was a teetotaller, but also extraordinarily health conscious, so when he read that red wine was good for the heart, he purchased a gigantic jug of cheap, sweet Kelowna Royal Red.  After dinner he would pour himself half a cup of that swill, directly into the glass that he had just drained of milk. 
Just thinking about that makes me smile.
He was essentially useless in the kitchen.  I very much doubt that he could have made himself a sandwich.  But once, many years ago, my younger brother and I were encamped in his living room, embarking on what was probably our fiftieth round of Rummikub, bored out of our trees on that Christmas holiday.  My mother had taken my grandma shopping, and yet we heard an immense amount of banging and rustling from the kitchen.  We exchanged looks and continued with our game.  After thirty minutes of that noise, my grandpa emerged, carrying a plastic bowl of tortilla chips.  “Here,” he said gruffly, “You kids like these.”
He rarely acknowledged that he liked anything, but if he did, he would say “That’s pretty good.”  When I received my master’s degree, he said that it was “real good”.  And once, once I was visiting them at Easter.  I was a teenager at the time, and I came to the breakfast table dressed in a skirt, ready for the church service.  “Well,” he said, “Well.  You’ll be the prettiest girl at church today.”  He never said anything like that in my hearing before or since.
He was divorced, with four children – the youngest was my father – in a time and place where that would have been considered somewhat unusual.  He married my grandma, who was a widow with six children.  I am one of thirty one grandchildren.  There are lots of great grandchildren and even some great-great grandchildren.  I lost count.  He liked having family around him, even though he didn’t show it in a particularly conventional way.
He was gruff and silent, and he had a huge family and a long life.  I will always smile when I think of my grumpy grandpa.


  1. I will always have to smile too when I think of him! He was rough around the edges but a sweet man inside. It’s hard to imagine that kitchen table with him not in his “spot”.

  2. Your grandpa sounds like a man from another era. I think he would have got along well with my own gruff grandpa. May your grandpa rest well.

  3. Oh. I am so sorry to hear this. He kind of sounds like my grandpa a bit…always grumpy always having my Mamie do everything for him. I wonder if it has something to do with their upbringing in the old days. Again, I am deeply sorry.

  4. It wasn’t easy to be a man back then. Or a woman, I guess. Ack, I suck at this. I’m glad thinking of him makes you smile.

  5. What a beautiful post! It brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my heart. 🙂 HUGS to you and your family.

  6. This is a lovely tribute to your grandpa. Well, not the part about the red wine in the milk glass. That’s kinda disturbing. But the rest is very sweet. It was ‘real good.’

  7. Sorry about the death of your grandfather; he was blessed to have had such a long and healthy life.

    He sounds like a character. The image of him bringing chips to you kids is very endearing. Sometimes people (especially men of that generation) are very awkward at showing emotion, but it sounds as if he was loving (in a non-demonstrative, manly sort of way).

  8. Aw, man, I was doing okay until you got to the prettiest girl at church part. Something in my eye.

  9. Aw….New reader, etc.

    That was lovely. I had one of those Grampas, too. Mine died at the end of September this year at 92. We don’t have such a large family, and he and my gramma live(d) with my mom and dad, so all of us were very involved in the last two months of his life. We (hubs and two little boys) got to see him about two weeks before he died, and although he was recovering slowly from a stroke and wasn’t quite the same, there were still flashes of the old guy, and we were able to have some conversation.

    It is hard to lose anyone.

  10. What a great story Nicole. I can totally picture your Grandpa. Sorry about his passing, but as you say, he lived a long life.


  11. Oh that is wonderful! I love the red wine right into the milk glass! A great day to remember how wonderful Grandpa’s and Granddad’s are in whatever shape they come in!
    My Granddad used to turn his hearing aid off so he didn’t have to listen to my Grandma, this is still the image I have in my head of marriage. He loved her, he just didn’t want to listen to her!

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