Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Slices of my Life with Grandpa Burt!

My Grandfather Burt passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of ninety-three. He and my grandmother celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this past November. We had a small family memorial service today and below are the slices of his life that I shared that resonate within me.

At ages ten and twelve, Ben and I thought we knew all we needed to know about fireworks, at least the little ones mom allowed Patti to buy for us. Armed with some bottle rockets, a couple of strings of Black Cats and other small pyrotechnics, we set off into the empty lot across the alley from Mom’s house with Grandpa as “Chaperone.” After helping us light a few, he produced an envelope.

“Put the string of Black Cats inside and thread the fuse out of this hole,” he said as he tore a small hole in one edge of the envelope. We did and loved how the paper seemed to disintegrate before our eyes before it caught on fire and we has to stamp it out.

Then he held out a light plastic bowl. “Put one under it with the fuse sticking out.” We followed his directions and upon detonation, the bowl was blown skyward almost fifteen feet into the air! Small piles of dirt, a soda can, and anything else we could experiment with met the same fate that afternoon. The twinkle in Grandpa’s eyes showed how much he enjoyed it too.

The lonesome train whistle blew as we stepped out of Rube’s Steakhouse into the twilight of rural Iowa. It was like a siren call for Grandpa and he was off like a shot, racing to the railroad tracks across the dusty parking lot. He loved trains! The cars whistled by him, as he stood closer than I dared to in my college-age bravado. As the last car sped past and his hair settled along with the particles picked up by the train’s passing, Grandpa’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

My Grandpa Burt, 93 years young, and my daughter, 3 years old.
Down the hall, legs swinging, hands clasped on the bar in front of her, Clara rides like a queen on Grandpa’s walker. He makes little “whoo” noises as he guides her towards the dining room, occasionally making slight swerves that elicit giggles and directions to change course or “Go straight Grandpa Burt!” Even though they are separated by ninety years, during their grand entrance, everyone see that their eyes twinkle with shared delight and have the same sparkle.

These stories are just a few memories I have of grandpa but they also contain some important lessons for me as a teacher and as a man. Being a chaperone doesn’t always mean it has to be less fun for those you watch. Always run towards your passions. Don’t be afraid to make a grand entrance when it brings light and joy to others!

Black Cat photo credit: <a href="">Calsidyrose</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Locomotive photo credit: <a href="">Jeff S. PhotoArt</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. What wonderful memories and lessons to learn. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Love hearing your memories, Max. That generation did love fireworks and trains, didn't they? It's wonderful that Clara had the chance to get to know Burt this past year. They both brought good things to each other.