My maternal grandfather died on March 24, 1972. It truly was the end of an era. After all, my Dad’s parents lived in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, at least 45 minutes away from where our family lived. But Mom’s folks lived about a mile away from us at 9716 S. Winchester Avenue, on the south side of Chicago, in Beverly.
My brothers and I had almost grown up in their house. Grandpa and Grandma had built the place back in the mid-twenties, right after Mom was born in 1924. It was a brown brick house with steps leading up to a covered front porch. It had three big french doors across the facade of the front and a red tile roof that Grandpa said would last 100 years.
In the back there was a detached two car garage, a turnaround apron so Grandma wouldn’t have to back out the long driveway and the most beautiful magnolia tree you ever saw. Each spring, when the blooms on the local trees come out, I always remember it – in fact I thought about that tree this past week-end.
While Grandpa was famous in his professional life as a lawyer and judge, we just thought of him as Mom’s Dad. He had an incredible way of talking to us, his only three grandchildren, and each week-end we were expected to go over and help in in the yard. Sometimes it was cutting the grass, while at other times we would help weed, or if we were really lucky, we got to put branches on the brush pile and watch as we burned them up with the leaves each fall.
At the end of our work together, Grandpa would give me $1. Whether I had worked all day, or just an hour or two, I received the same amount. That’s because he’d tell me, “You do things for family.” His also constantly reminded me that I should “take care of your mother – because you only get one to a lifetime.” He was passionate about this phrase, as he had lost his own mother to tuberculosis when Grandpa was 13. He never forgot about her. Whenever Grandpa was gone for an afternoon, Grandma would tell us he was at the cemetery, making sure the family graves were taken care of. Mom even learned to drive at Oakwoods cemetery where we had 18 graves in the family plot. I guess Grandpa thought she couldn’t hurt anybody there – after all, everybody was already dead…..
While I loved my grandmother and Auntie Lou, her cousin who lived with the family, I loved my grandfather more than the others. He just had a way about him. Of course, Mom said that he was stern when she was growing up and even when she attended Northwestern, but I rarely saw that side of him. He was a large commanding figure who care across as being fearless. If memory serves me correctly, Janet’s father knew my grandfather, although I was pretty young at the time and don’t remember all the details.
I do know that times with him were special. He taught me how to work with my hands, how to build things in the basement, how to sharpen a knife, and how to burn stuff up in the incinerator he had in the basement. I inherited many of his tools and they are a part of my workshop still today. He also taught me how to make ice cream, to shuck corn so we could pop it over the fire, how to make steel cut oatmeal that cooked for 24 hours and how to love maple syrup. There really wasn’t anything about him that I didn’t love.
One of the most important things I remember is that he was a man of faith. While he didn’t always attend church, he was a devout believer, as was my grandmother. And always, faith played a role in his actions. Additionally, he always thought my Dad was wound a little tight and that he didn’t have much patience. Grandpa was right. As I got a little older, and felt the pressure from Dad to get more done, Grandpa would remind me to “hurry up and slow down” – words I remember to this day, even though I don’t think I adhere to them very well.
It seemed to me that he was immortal – ageless. But I found out that was not the case. When I was eighteen, he suffered a pretty serious stroke. He was in Christ Community Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL when he died. I had been living at his home, taking care of Grandma, while he was in the hospital. He even told me where the security measures in the house where, as he feared for Grandma’s safety. I guess that was from years in the public eye as a prosecutor.
Then, one Friday in March, 1972, it was over. The end had come. His funeral was on Monday, March 27, 1972. I remember it like it was yesterday, as well as the visitation we had held during the week-end. I stayed at Grandma’s until their home was sold in August of that year. It was during this time that Janet and I started to date. One of my deepest regrets is that although Janet knew my grandmother, she never remembers meeting Grandpa – and that was a shame as he was such an influence on me.
Now Janet and I are the grandparents. Such an odd twist that it almost seems unreal to me. And we have seen the torch pass from generation to generation. Now our children and grandchildren turn to us to dispense the kind of wisdom that I sought from my grandparents. Somehow, I don’t seem nearly as qualified as my grandparents were.
The verse for tonight reflects the eternal nature of God. We are told in Psalms 135:13, “Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, through all generations.” My encouragement tonight is to make sure you realize that God is forever. And He is constant throughout all time. The God of yesterday, today and tomorrow is the same. My prayer is that you will teach your families about the constancy and faithfulness of our Lord. After all, He is same God all the generations before us have known; and the God future generations will know as well. And it’s good to know that some things never change. Grace and Peace,