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Today would have been my grandfather's 98th birthday.
Gramp was an ordinary fellow, and an extraordinary person. He wasn't the type to have a motto (that would have been putting on airs), but "If you want the job done right, do it yourself" would have been fitting.
Third of 11 children, he dropped out of school after 8th grade and went to work to help support the family.
He married my grandmother during the Great Depression. Lucky to have a job in town, Gramp also leased and oversaw a farm, giving many of my grandmother's cousins an opportunity to work for room, board and whatever income the farm could bring in.
After WWII, he bought some land outside Topeka. Working alongside each subcontractor, Gramp learned plumbing, electrical, stone masonry and more as he built their white limestone house from the basement to the rafters.
The first grandchild, I remember spending summer evenings in the garage, watching him work on engines--or in the basement, as he stood outside the back door, staring down a tornado.
Gramp taught me how to plant corn, what the color of smoke told you about an engine (black meant burning oil, white meant carburetor problems), how to catch a snake that was raiding bird nests (put a fishing hook in a raw egg and hang it from a branch), how long highway concrete should cure before driving on it (30 days, with regular wetting down), and what different cloud formations told you about the coming weather. If you wanted to know how something worked--natural or mechanical--ask Gramp.
Seven weeks before my wedding, Gramp entered his final illness at 93. The doctors gave him two weeks, a month at the most. From New York to California, Illinois to Texas, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren hurried back to Kansas.
Over and over, he told me he didn't want anything to interfere with the wedding--we were to put him in cold storage and bury him after it was over. But, through sheer force of will--and love--he held on. Gramp passed away three days after the wedding.
I love you, Gramp!