Happy Birthday Grandpa M!

Hey Four!

Today, Dec 6th, is my dad’s 69th birthday.  Your Grandpa M is one incredible guy and I will attempt to tell you all about him, even though writing all about your dad was very emotional for me and left me feeling drained.  Writing about my dad will be equally so.  I am one very lucky daughter when it comes to having a great relationship with my dad.  Your cousins will tell you how much they like Grandpa M too.  He is just so much fun.  The thing that I wish is that you (and me) could just have unlimited time with him.  When I think that he is 69 already it is just mind-boggling.  I can’t believe he is almost 70.  He still acts the same that I have always known.  He is just very young at heart, even though for a while there his heart was sure giving us a fright.  GM has been blessed with decent health and until recently didn’t even have “old people” issues like sore joints.  His back is getting a little worse and his knees and feet are starting to stiffen up, but he still works on projects with the same get-up-and-go that he always has.

So let’s start at the start.  GM was born on December 6th 1947.  GGF and GGV were so happy to welcome their little boy as he would be their only child.  GGF ended up having to get a hysterectomy soon after GM was born.  GGF was very Catholic, while GGV was Protestant.  Back then that was a big deal, so when GGF pleaded for GGV to allow GM to be raised a Catholic, that was something that set him on the course for much of his personality.  GM is a very devout Catholic.  The church that GGF went to was a short walk from their house.  GM even went to some grade school there.  Later, that was the church we would all walk to with GGF when we visited her…and, finally, that was the church where GM read his heart-wrenching eulogy at her funeral.  GGF was always connected with her faith, and she made sure to do that for GM.  This is one of GM’s areas of personal let-down.  He wishes that your Aunts A and J and me were more involved in our Catholic faith.  Honestly, I do too.  GM is someone who follows the teachings of his Catholic upbringing in all that he does.

(Today is now the 7th, I didn’t finish this as I was super sleepy).

Grandpa M was an okay student.  When he was a little kid, he was picked on at times.  He was chubby and short for his age.  He once told me that some neighborhood kids tied him to a tree and GGF found him.  He had some friends, but he was not overly involved in things at school.  He soon had his growth spurt, which made him tall and lanky, but then he dealt with very bad acne.  He just tried to stay under the radar as he went through school.  He never had a girlfriend and he didn’t go to parties or dances.  He did some apprentice jobs and just figured he would follow his dad into a pipefitter’s job.  As I told you, it took a counselor to plant this spark with him about trying to do the U of I engineering program.

GM going to U of I was a huge life changer for him.  He turned his studying around and became passionate about learning all about mechanical engineering.  It opened up a whole new world of possibilities for his life.  He met Grandma J when he was getting a ride to his hometown where they shared a car with a mutual friend.  Had it not been for that car ride they would have never crossed circles, even though they were from the same hometown and went to the same high school.  They were a grade apart and in totally different social groups.  Yet, despite all of the ways they might never have found each other, they did.  And thank goodness for me!  GM graduated and got a job as a sales engineer for a large commercial HVAC company.  He had to go to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for orientation and training.  Meanwhile GJ was finishing her senior yet at college and getting ready to get a job as an elementary school teacher.  Finally, upon my mom’s graduation they settled down in a  2nd floor apartment in Geneva in a home where the couple who owned the home lived on the 1st floor.  They were very happy there and made plans to buy land, build a home, and start a family.  Just before I was born, my Dad’s Aunt L passed away.  GM’s father, GGV, had a brother and a sister.  His brother was married and he and his wife were killed in a car accident.  They had no children, but they did have a little poodle.  GGV and GGF adopted the little dog and Snoopy lived into old age with them.  GGV’s sister was my dad’s very special Aunt.  She took my dad on all kinds of amazing trips all over the country.  She never married, so she was able to spend a lot of time with GM.  She wasn’t Catholic, but anytime they went anywhere, she made sure that she took GM to a church for Sunday mass.  She had a huge impact on GM’s life (like I hope Aunt D will have on yours).  GM’s Aunt L passed away from complications with cancer.  She had managed to save money in her life (something that GM’s side of the family was incredibly good at) and left GM an inheritance that he was able to use to buy the lot that he built his home on.  GM made all of the plans for the house and then did most of the work to build that home by hand with the help of GGV and his other industry contacts.  There is something special about considering how I was raised in a home my parents and family and friends built.  While building and finishing the house, tah-dah, I came along.

I would like to think my arrival in GM and GJ’s life changed things for them bigtime, the way I know you will for your dad and me too.  When I was born, GM told me how he would hold me and whistle the song, “My Girl”.  He had a good job that allowed for him to build a very secure life for me.  We were this great young family, and I was showered with attention from all four grandparents as I was the first grandchild.  Life was the American Dream for him.  He had earned an education far beyond what his parents had been able to achieve.  He had married a beautiful woman who took care of a lovely house that was home to his healthy baby girl.  Sure there were things in play at that time that I am sure I don’t know about, but there are slideshows of fun vacations that my parents took together while a set of grandparents watched me.  My mom was a beauty and when I see pictures of her from then, she looks so happy.  Three years after I was born Aunt A came along, a little prematurely, and tah-dah, I had a little sister.  She was a different baby than I was.  She was a good sleeper, a sweet snuggler, and girlie-girl; I was always a rough and tumble tomboy.  From what I remember about those years we did a lot of fun things as a young family of four.  GM continued to do well with his career and Aunt A, GJ, and me all benefited from a life where we could want for nothing.  That is something when you think about it.  GM’s parents lived through the depression and GM was providing an income so that we had the best of everything.  We weren’t rich, but we were secure middle class.

I bet that there are things GM would love to go back and do differently.  I am sure of that.  I know he would always choose to have his three daughters, but I know he would have done things with his money much differently.  He was never, and is still not a spendthrift.  However, he and GJ never ever lived by a budget.  As a result GJ and yours Aunts and me had this funky concept of money.  We didn’t learn to save the way GM had learned from GGV and GGF.  We were most certainly spoiled and we picked up this bad habit of way too much materialism.  This would be something I am sure he would love to have a second chance at.  When I was in my mid 30s he attended a financial workshop course with me.  It really opened my eyes to how I just never learned or was exposed to so many wise money management habits.  I am grateful for the chance to have experienced that with him.  I hope that you will benefit from this part of my writing.  Your family will want to give your the best that they can to make you feel loved and secure.  However, stuff is not love.  Do not think that just because we don’t spoil you with every toy you want we don’t love you.  It is never that.  I can’t recall many toys that I was gifted.  Here is what I do remember: being paid attention to, learning stories, and feeling comfortable and happy.  The toys of my childhood are long gone.  Amazing, though, how the feelings and impressions remain.  It is hard for a little kid to wrap their brain around that.  I want to teach you about saving, donating, and making smart choices when it comes to monetary gifts people will give you.  For your Christmas and Birthday wish lists, I will ask you to consider a charity too.  I will also ask you to save $100/year from when you can learn about savings.  For every year that we see you save we will contribute money to that too and then (at some responsible age) we will allow you half of that money for you to do what you want with, while the other half you will start an investment portfolio with.  This will be something that you will completely appreciate when you are sitting in my shoes at forty something.

Sorry, money is a big thing that is tied to GM.  Even now as he is 69, he still goes to work in order to keep the money coming in…mainly because GJ is so sick and much of the medical care that she has in place for herself is not covered by insurance.  She sees specialists and takes incredibly expensive medicine.  If she had never become so sick, there is no doubt GM would be in a very different place financially right now.  I remember he went through some papers with me where were looking at medical expenses for a couple of years.  Holy schinkes was that crazy!  He spent more out of pocket in one year than I made as a teacher.  It is a miracle for GJ that GM can take care of her the way that he does.  There is nothing that she needs that he doesn’t give her.  She has benefitted from his devotion to her where many other men may have walked away.  Again, he is very Catholic so standing by his marriage vows is the only thing that would ever be an option for him.

GM was the most amazing son to GGF.  After GGV passed he would drive 6 hours to try and help GGF keep things going at her house far away.  Finally it was time for him to move her closer to us up here.  It was an incredibly hard period of time.  GGF’s whole world was down south and packing up her home meant making some tough choices about what she could keep.  He found her an amazing senior retirement home near us.  It was a really cute place and what was more amazing is that because of her good habit of saving, she was able to afford a place that many elderly people might have struggled to budget for.  GM set up all of her familiar furniture and made the little one bedroom apartment her home.  It was never as magical as the home down south of our childhood memories, but is was way better than we could have expected.  For a while she would complain about how bad it was there.  However, even in her complaining, she would let it slip that she was enjoying it there too.  She made friends and participated in the various crafting opportunities offered.  Our family was able to spend much more time there and we used the community room to host parties so that people could make memories of birthdays, holidays, and celebrations that included GGF.  All of this was because GM was behind the scenes directing how her later years could play out with as much comfort as possible with him as available as possible.

The fact that GGF lived to 101 and had her son at her bedside when she passed is a wonderful resolution to all of GM’s efforts.  Your GM is someone with this limitless capacity to give and give.  He has given his whole life and all the more as he got older.  He doesn’t take fancy vacations for himself.  He buys winter coats on dirt cheap clearance prices.  He gets out tools to make old machines last and work for him rather than buy something new.  He drives cars for decades and never finances anything.  GM has always lived in such a way that he can be a provider.  I think of him as this rock, and  as I type that I am choking back tears.

My life would not have been possible if not for my dad.  Obviously there is the biological truth of that, but it is much more too.  When I was at my lowest, my most terrified, my darkest shame, and feeling utterly hopeless, he would reassure me with a no-bullshit genuine truth that I will be okay.  I could feel like a terrible mess and a huge drag on him and my family, and still he would hug me and tell me it would all be okay.  I would feel unloveable, unbearable, and like completely giving up, and he would give me a hug and I would cry a sloppy, snotty hard cry, but then get through to another day.  That role of being my rock is why I am here and why I can love so deeply and so completely.  It was never about this thing or that big thing or standout moment being his daughter.  It was all about his consistent, each day every day calm, grounded, patient, kind nature.  That is why he is an amazing dad, cherished grandfather, good husband, loving son, reliable employee, loyal friend, and decent human being.  Four, I hope that you will know GM on this level, and I hope that I try to be the parent to you that he has been to me.  So happy birthday GM!  I hope that next year on his 70th, we can all celebrate together!  While birthdays are when we usually give gifts, I can’t help but truly appreciate the gift over having another year with my dad!  I have been so blessed with him and hope you will be too little baby!

On a side note, I am still bedresting.  I got my blood numbers back, and despite all of the bleeding I am doing well.  I have seen so many deer coming through the yard.  I have named the does, but we have these two boys: the Bucky Brothers.  I am just hoping you keep doing well in there.  Give me a kick please!


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