In memory of my grandfather, Robert “Bob” —-. I’m Danielle, his first grandchild out of six (almost seven). While he was obviously a great husband to my grandma Cathy, a great father to Steve, Pam and Andrew, a great brother to Ralph and Jack, and a great dog father to Gucci, I can say with all certainty that he was always destined to be called “Grandpa” to all of us grandkids, myself, Taylor, Kaitlyn, LeeAnn, Joseph, Jaxon, and Wyatt on the way.
In general, the one thing we will all remember my grandpa for was how he never ran out of words. That man could TALK. For how much he did talk, he clearly should have become a preacher. He would’ve made a darn good one, too. Talk about “love your job and never work a day in your life.” He loved church and he loved talking. No one was safe from a conversation with him if you were blessed to be in the vicinity. I was going to say ‘room’ but his gift of gab was not restricted to four walls. When Steve, Pam and Andrew were younger, Grandpa would take them fishing every year. He would fish some, and he’d also make new friends on the pier. But how could you not talk to him? So kind, so friendly, so positive. I remember any time we went out to eat he would talk the server’s ear off. Let’s also not forget the casino bus month after month – banished to the back of the bus so he could talk to everyone else and not distract the bus driver with his nonstop questions. Plus he’d almost always be one of the last ones on the bus at the quick stops because he’d be catching up with everyone in the store and wouldn’t get his snacks or food until most were already back on the bus. I can only imagine how many people there are in this world whose days he brightened when they needed it most with his genuine, kind conversations. How many people he met in all his years of truck driving for Albertsons and AAFES who were held hostage to his endless questions, but would almost always walk away feeling some kind of appreciation for being noticed. As much as sometimes his questioning felt like too much, I always remembered that he wouldn’t ask if he didn’t care, and immediately I just felt loved.
When Taylor and I brought home our now-husbands Jordan and Brad to Texas to stay, Grandpa found his next conquests. But they were troopers. Grandpa wanted to know every little thing there was to know about Virginia and California. He’d come over with maps and they’d talk about all the different parts of the state. He’d ask them to pull the weather in their hometowns on their phones, compare it to the weather here, compare it to the weather in other parts of the states. I know for Brad, if it was even remotely cold outside here, he’d always assume it was snowing back in Virginia. It got to a point where Grandma would say on their way over to dinner at Mom and Dad’s, “Don’t you dare ask Brad about the weather” and not even five minutes into their arrival he’d do it anyway. Let’s be honest, he did what he wanted. No snacks from the grocery store? Secret pit stop at Dollar General while picking up Bill Miller’s for dinner. I think I got that from him, don’t tell my husband.
One of the prime core memories for me growing up with my grandpa was our mutual love of all things sports. Growing up, we were neighbors over off of —-, with a big concrete slab in the middle to play on. We spent so many afternoons outside together. My sister and I loved riding our bikes and scooters (and my rollerblade phase too) over to the post office with him daily when he checked the mail. We’d ride in circles around the parking lot while he chatted with whomever was lucky enough to be inside at the same time as him. Then we’d ride back home together to cool off. Sometimes we’d go hang out with him at their house, watching the OG Family Feud with good ole Richard Dawson, or any other show on the Game Show Network. Plus, he was a huge supporter of us as athletes as well. He was my home-coach, trying to pull tricks from his old coaching hat (one of a thousand hats he owned in his lifetime), tips and pointers, demonstrations and all, but he couldn’t keep me from being afraid of a fast pitched softball. I was an excellent defensive player however, and I think so much of that was because of our frequent sessions playing catch in the yard: fly balls, ground balls, you name it. I also tried basketball, and as much as I should be able to boast about my young self kicking his butt, he was the one breaking my ankles. I will always cherish those moments and memories we shared together.
I’m grateful for the extra amount of time I spent with him last year during the height of the pandemic. I offered to chauffeur Pam to and from some weekly doctors appointments so that Grandma wouldn’t have to risk her health being out in public. And they didn’t want Grandpa out either, partly because of his health as well, but also because he was supposedly a terrible driver (not my words). Pam and I would do our thing, and then brought home lunch to eat altogether at the table, the Game Show Network in the background, obviously. We’d talk about virtual-pandemic school (for legal reasons I was not doing this during my contract time) and all of its challenges, about Brad’s job frustrations, about my other grandma who was very sick at the time. Honestly, it was the like free therapy.
I’ll miss so many things about Grandpa. The endless questions, the way he would always say, “Where’s Katy?” when he came over and Kaitlyn played along and would always say, “here!” When Grandma would yell “Bob leave him alone!” after he’d be questioning Brad for awhile and he’d just reply “alright, dear.” Waving to him as we drove down Mom and Dad’s driveway and he was doing who-knows-what outside. How I always felt like the center of attention when I was visiting. How seriously he took his job of restocking the water in the house and fridge, or taking the trash cans to the street on Monday night. And finally, his love for everyone he was surrounded by. I’m thankful for the time we spent together, and that I was able to grant him one last big wish before it was too late: the Virginia ham.
For years he would mention it to Brad. This prestigious Virginia ham that you’d swear was kissed by God himself for how much he spoke of it. Last year he was the most persistent. Every family dinner pretty much. We’d even mock it when we knew it was gonna come up. When Brad and I travelled back to Roanoke to spend Thanksgiving with his family, we finally brought him home a package of that majestic, salty ham. We saved it for his birthday/Christmas for his final gift of the morning, and I think that is the most joy I’d seen him exude in a long time. He hugged that precious ham and was so so thankful.
My grandpa Bob was a great man. Obviously someone who shared a birthday with Jesus was going to be here for good. We all cherish the experiences and conversations we were honored to share with him. We celebrate that he has taken his place in Heaven, and is enjoying all of the Virginia ham he can eat with his birthday twin Jesus.
I’d like to end with a short poem I wrote:
We asked you to heal,
for a little more time.
It felt so sudden,
versus a steady decline.
But time is in your hands,
even if we ask you why –
as Ecclesiastes says:
there’s a “time to be born and a time to die.”
Yet while we may no longer
have the pleasure of his presence,
we remember, he IS healed –
he’s dancing with Jesus in Heaven.
So for the healing and the time we got,
God we all thank you,
and ask your hands to turn to us
as we now mourn and heal too.
Rest in Heaven, Grandpa.