My grandpa was part of the last generation of great American farmers, before they went all soft and high-tech. He and his wife, Gert reared four strong and handsome children on their family farm. A sanctuary of rolling hills and river bluffs in the Mississippi river bottom he and his brother cleared off with an axe, a saw and their four calloused hands. A six-room house built with hand-honed bricks made from the sand out of the creek running through their lower pasture. The red dairy barn covered in tin-roofing, flanked by a sentinel stone silo and surrounded by a family of mismatched stone and frame sheds and well-houses.
Through the eyes of his admiring grandson, I thought the farm was as much a part of him, as grandma was. They all went together. Their own sacred trinity.
Grandpa was a weathered old barn, always open to friends, as well as a variety of stray animals and hobos walking the tracks down by the river. He was a massive old silo that stood strong as he weathered floods and droughts through years of changing seasons. Grandpa was formed out of the same sandy soil that provided the home for his family; a fortress against the elements and evil of his day. He was honed and chiseled by Life, bearing the scars and marks that only served to make him stronger.
Grandpa also had his soft side as well. Whether it was his twanging out love songs to his sweetheart while driving into town for an ice cream, or letting his granddaughters give him a makeover and pedicure, he was always a gentle touch with his girls. He was a man of faith, who prayed for rain to fall and floodwaters to recede and taught the men’s Sunday School class for several decades at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
Today, as a grandpa myself, I see the old man looking back at me while I shave. I see his wrinkles and scars, his same thinning hair and expanding belly. I pray I will see the same godly qualities as well.