Sitting at my Ono Sendai


The greatest man that ever did live
March 8, 2009, 3:38 am
Filed under: thoughts

A whole 42 hours after I was told, it hits me; my grandfather is gone. My grandpa Hansen, despite only seeing him during summer vacation in Minnesota, was as much a part of my life as my dad’s parents were (confession: I never felt close to my stepgrandmother, even less so after her passing and the strangeness? that occurred between her family and ours).

I’m not sure what to tell you. My grandpa was the strongest, healthiest, hardest-working person I knew, even in his old age. I owe him my height, memories of fields, summer roadtrips with my family (he would let us borrow his car) and so much else. All of freshman year, when life managed to suck and a half, I would sit in the Newell Simon atrium, by the window, looking out on the construction. That was probably a trait I inherited from him, he was always “supervising” a construction project.

We always joked that his diet was basically meat, corn and potatoes but it actually was, and that was the amazing part. I remember seeing his eyes light up as soon as my mom or aunt would set the plate of liver and potatoes in front of him. I like to think he figured out some secret to a long, good life, like…he knew what was up and he would always smile. He passed away at 97…I’m convinced he figured something out.

It was really hard for me to see him during the last couple years. Sometimes he wouldn’t recognize or confuse me with my uncle Larry, his vision was slowly fading, his memory was bits and pieces here and there and he would stare blankly at the weather channel that was always on in his room (“It’s going to be a good growing day for the sweet corn” or “I hope we get some rain soon”). Last year was definitely the hardest, seeing him in “The Lighthouse” (the part of the care home for people whose lights had mostly gone out). We took him for a walk around the home and that will probably be my last memory of him, shuffling in his slippers and walker around the block, enjoying the summer breeze. After that visit I remember telling my mom I didn’t want to visit again, seeing him like that…was very hard.

Instead, I might practice some revisionism on my own memory, I want to remember him at his happiest: surrounded by his son, daughters and grandchildren at the Eggiman cottage; knife and fork in hand; tall glass of milk, liver, onions and baby potatoes in front of him. And if you knew my grandpa, you’d remember he had this great grin on his face at that moment. I’m going to remember that moment.

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