My paternal grandfather was quite a character. And, from a very young age, I could always remember him as a happy-go-lucky guy – always laughing, with seemingly nothing getting him down.
For Grandpa, it was all about attitude. He was always smiling, whistling while he worked and was never one to stand still. As an entrepreneur … could take any business from nothing and make it into a thriving enterprise. At one time, he had a restaurant, hotel and grand home at a very popular summer resort. My grandmother ran the day-to-day operations and was very happy living there.
He was also very industrious. He could take a rundown house and with a little paint,wall paper and carpentry, turn it into something better – all on a shoestring budget – with frequent trips to the furniture thrift store.
Volunteering his time, he would also visit kids in the hospital, hand painting their room windows with their favorite cartoon characters. The kids just loved him!
A successful salesman, selling ‘pots & pans’ (as he like to call it) he sold to commercial kitchens; and in later life, before his untimely death, he started up a Dry Cleaning business: his idea of a Retirement Savings Plan.
He often used his great sales skills on me – a typical non-compliant teenager – like the time he asked me to help him with a spring cleanup project. Initially, I rebelled against this… couldn’t see why I should help when all my friends were lazing about. Grandpa saw no future in that; so, using his considerable charm he said,” Freddy, think of how fantastic it’s going to be seeing the house with all those windows shining in the sun!” And, just like that, he had me hooked.
And you know, he was right. Looking back, I can still feel how proud I felt when I had finished. Teaching by example, that was my grandpa!
Some years after he passed away, I asked grandma how she felt living without his larger than life personality? She just smiled and said at times he drove her crazy. He was a great people person; but, he was also a bit of a rolling stone – always wanting to move. She then sighed and said, “Still, I miss him, Freddy.” – as we all did.
His personality and love of life was contagious.
When grandmother passed away and we were getting her house ready for sale, I noticed something written on the old shed door I hadn’t noticed before. Grandpa had written (he was always writing), ‘Man is closer to God in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.’
That pretty well sums it up. He was the gardener of our lives – pruning here; nurturing there. When he died, it left a huge hole in our lives, where a great … not perfect … man once lived. As Elton John sang, in Empty Garden, “A gardener like that one no one can replace.”