Monday, May 11, 2009

I Love You Grampa

Today I honor my grandfather, Aloys Jacob Willems who went on ahead of us last week at the age of 92. He was a good man, a kind man, and the kind of grandfather everyone should have. I was honored to have known him for 38 years. That's my grandfather as a boy on the left. I'm pretty sure that's one of his seven brothers, Fred (Fritz) on the right. He also had four sisters.

This is how I remember him best! Sitting in his chair in their old house, wearing his plaid shirt and laughing. He always had a joke or a math game to teach you. I loved him so much!

I asked my grandfather to fill out a memory book years ago. Above, he writes about his birth. Click to enlarge.

My grampa loved a family party! Here he is in the backyard of their house (right upper corner) telling a story to entertain the crowd. He loved all kinds of American comfort food, including turkey, dressing, fried chicken, lemonade, mashed potatoes and green beans. I'm not sure I ever saw him drink alchohol, maybe a beer once when Uncle Paul was over. That's my dad in the front foreground. I loved their house. A lot of my childhood memories were made there.

This is my second favorite photo of him, he's on the front porch of their house. I think this is when he accidentally hammered a nail into his knee - you can see the crutch on the ledge. He was a carpenter and was always in his basement shop making things. I still use the bookcases, chairs and jigsaw puzzles he made. He also made porch swings, decorative family name wind hangers, and fences, among other things. He once fixed my car with wood! I can still see his woodshop clearly in my head and smell the sawdust and woodburning stove. Around the corner in the basement was my grandma's canned food nook, full of glass jars of peaches and plums.

We ate Sunday dinner at my grandparent's pretty much every week of my life until I was 27 and moved from Milwaukee to Texas. This is my entire family at the time. From right, my grandpa, my dad, Uncle Jerry, Aunt Mary, my aunt Sister Mary Alice, my mom, me, my cousin Sean, my sister Heidi, my cousin Jacob and my grandma. I got very attached to that house. My sister actually bought it from them later and lived there with her family for a while.

This is a great childhood memory - On Christmas, my grandpa would sometimes take us caroling in German. That's their nativity scene in the background and my cousin Sean studying the German lyrics so we could sing. We sang Oh Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht and others.

Here are my grandpa's words telling about his own grandma and grandpa. You can see he learned the German songs from them! On the left he tells a story his grandpa used to tell. The word that's hard to read toward the bottom of the page is "owed". The story finishes at the very top of that page. Click to enlarge. He loved a good story.

Lighting the Easter Candle with my sister (i'm on the right). That's my mom and dad and I'm sure you recognize grampa by now!

Here's me (right) with my grandparents in about 1973. My mom is 29 years old, or maybe 28. She's holding my cousin Sean and my sister Heidi is on her right.

I love this picture! That's me with my grampa and Heidi with grandma. This must be before my grampa built the window boxes for their flowers - they should be right behind us.

Here's Heidi and me with grampa in later years - judging by my spiral perm and Heidi's acid green and huge earrings, i'd say late 1980's! That's their front porch again. I love you grampa.

After I moved to Texas and started a family, I continued to visit. My grampa loved his great grandkids as much as he loved us. That's my son Wolfgang with him about five years ago.

And here's the whole group! Heidi and her husband and kids and me with my husband and one kid I had then.
I love you grampa, you were the best, kindest man i've ever known. You will live forever in our hearts and the hearts of everyone whose lives you touched. I'll never forget any detail about you.

I'll leave you with my grampa's words about my grandma. They were married 69 years and she was the only girl he ever went steady with. Goodbye for now grampa, I love you.


Sarah said...

What a wonderful way to honor your grandpa! Thinking of you this week.

Much love,

Tonya's Sewing Room said...

that's great, I love the memory book. my grandparents died before I was 5, can't remember much about any of them

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

Just love hearing about the great memories of those that have gone before us. It encourages us to lead a life that may someday remembered by the ones we love. Thank you for sharing.

Beth said...

So sorry for your loss, but your grandpa is continuing to make people smile -- his memory book response is so funny!

Margot, Wendy's mother said...

I think Wendy's Grandpa was either the best or one of the best people I ever knew, and I knew him for over 40 years. It was good to see earlier memories of him, as we tend to see people in the present and not in the past. Even in the nursing home, he was still kind, happy and encouraging. Wendy's sister, Heidi, has a little girl named Lydia, who is 8 and was having her first communion 2 weekends ago. "Grandpa" couldn't speak but he raised his hands and gently clapped when he saw Lydia's dress. This is the essence of "Grandpa", and I will always think of him with love.

Wanda said...

What a wonderful post...a great way to celebrate a man you loved dearly for your whole life. How lucky you are to have had him for so long. And I'm glad you have so many pictures.