Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A letter to Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

I often wonder about you; my mother's father.....a man I never knew. You passed away on my own father's birthday in 1964, the year that my little brother was born. I was not quite three.

Most of what I know of you is what's been written down in our history and the memories Mother has of you from her childhood days. I know that our family lineage nearly ended with you many years ago, in 1917.

You were sailing on the ship Delamere from the coast of Africa to England when it was hit. A German submarine fired a torpedo which struck the Delamere and sank it in the Irish Sea. Lifeboats were sent out, including the one that carried you and 18 other men. Only three of you survived after being adrift for several days. Due to the exposure, you developed pneumonia and lost a lung.

But you recovered. You went on to serve in the United States Army until the armistice and after the war, married my grandmother. Throughout your life and marriage, nine children were born and thirty-four grandchildren. Among me.

I close my eyes and try to imagine you. Your face is familiar only in photographs, not through my own memories and recollections like I would wish..... and your voice is foreign and lost to me. Still, there must be something of you in me.

I remember Grandma well.....but I do not see her in me. I saw my paternal grandparents often, but do not recognize traits from either when I see myself. So I look to you, Grandpa, to find something of sense, to grasp a family connection that links me to the past.

I know that you were a quiet man, an honest man... a man of great character and integrity. I know that you always helped your neighbors and friends, and that even though you weren't one to attend church, you lived your life in a Christian way: by example. I saw that trickle down into my mother and know that so much of the goodness in my life was because you were my grandfather.

I wish I had known you. I wish we could have sat in the porch swing of an evening and talked and done all the things that Grandpas and granddaughters do. I could have learned much from you, I know. I missed a lot by missing your life, and I'm not sure I truly realized it until now.

So as your birthday approaches, I'd finally like to say "thank you". Thank you for your strength in that lifeboat so many years ago. Thank you for holding on, for living so that your life could continue through those of us who follow you. And thank you for being the kind of man who left a mark on people's lives; who touched the world and made it better with his own.

May our footsteps be as courageous and as honest. May our lives be your legacy....and may they make you proud that we are those who called you "Grandpa".

I Love You,


clew said...

Lori, this was such a beautiful post. Your Grandpa sounds like he was an amazing person! Such a sweet and loving tribute you have here.

Anonymous said...


HeyJules said...

That was just eloquent. Thank you.

Patrick said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I wrote a letter to my brother once who died of SIDS before I was ever born. I have always wanted a brother and it would have made life so much better. I know that I will seem him in heaven one day. Thank you again for opening your heart and life on your blog.

Michael said...
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Macromoments said...

This post really grabbed my heart because I'm working on an article about a grandparent I never got to know. My paternal grandmother died before my parents met.

Seven or eight years ago, my mom handed me a quilt top and asked me to finish it as a surprise for my dad's birthday. He was in his late seventies at the time, and the fabric squares belonged to his childhood. As I sewed, I thought of his hard-working mother--what she was like, what her voice might have sounded like, and what she thought about as she joined those colorful squares.

You write with such sentimentality, Lori. I really like the way you approach each topic.

McSwain said...

Oh... I enjoyed this. My favorite post I've ever written was one about my Grandpa. We can learn so much if we dare honor our "elders"