Seem to be thinking quite a bit about my grandparents these days. With Father's Day approaching, I wanted to once again share a story about my grandfather.
His name was Bruno, German for "brown bear." A fitting name for a man tough as a grizzly, soft as a child's teddy.
Emigrating to the United States at age 12, Bruno found himself plunged into a new world and a different culture. Without knowing a single word of his new country's language, he managed to achieve all A's in school--except in his English class. He spoke of this years later, in now perfect English, with pride at his accomplishment and a twinge of disappointment at that one failure.
But education was a luxury for many families, especially immigrants, in the 1920s. He left school after the eighth grade, his carpenter father insisting boys his age must learn a trade. Bright and good with his hands, Bruno trained to be a machinist. A humble occupation, it didn't bring great wealth but ensured a decent enough living, and of that he remained proud. Decency--in a person's character and their work ethic--mattered much to Bruno.
If he'd been born wealthier and a half-century later, his calling would have been an engineer or a computer scientist. At a holiday gathering when he was about eighty, he quizzed my computer salesman brother-in-law.
"How are things at your shop?" (Every workplace was a "shop," whether the person worked in a factory, an office or out of their home.) He leaned forward, listening, as my brother-in-law fumbled through an explanation of the computer network sales business. Bruno nodded, his bushy gray eyebrows knitted together and his ever-alert blue eyes particularly intense.
"But now explain this to me," he said, in his legendary line of questioning of everything in life. "How exactly does a computer work?"
No one could satisfy his insatiable curiosity.
It was even more impossible to deter the man's determination.
A heart attack, when he was only in his forties, fortified his will to live. Damned if he'd let a bad heart get the best of him. That heart attack was Bruno's first and his last. He survived another forty years.
While he was in his sixties, the company for whom he worked more than thirty years folded. He lost not only his job but his entire pension. Self-pity or despair were never an option. Bruno simply persevered and found another job.
Years later, a horrific car crash left him with injuries that included several broken ribs and a pulverized face. (His jaw would be wired shut, rendering him unable to speak and on a liquid diet for weeks.) The day after the accident, he ignored the hospital staff's heeding and plodded down the hallway to the ICU to be by the side of my grandmother, who suffered a broken neck.
Bruno didn't believe in giving up on giving his all. That's what I remember most about my grandfather. Plus his exuberant bear hugs. And his misty-eyed, frequently repeated words, "I'm so proud of you kids."
I wish I would have, just once, said I was proud of him, too.
Bruno outlived his wife of sixty-two years, who never fully bounced back from that accident. He also outlived my father, whom he never called his son-in-law but always his son.
My dad died from cancer, at age 53, only four months after the car crash. (Ironically, while already scheduled for chemotherapy, he was the only one uninjured out of the vehicle's six passengers.) My father-in-law died just two years later--also at age 53--when my two sons were just babies.
Although he was their great-grandfather, Bruno is the only grandpa either of my now grown boys remember.
Bruno lived to a more-than-decent age of 89. He'd be 100 next month. He's been gone for more than ten years, yet I see his warmth and his fortitude alive still in my mother. I'd like to believe that I possess just a bit of both of those qualities, too. And when I look at my two sons, I'm certain I see fragments of their great-grandfather.
Yes, he was a Great Grandfather.
Happy Father's Day, Grandpa.
Any characteristics you wish a parent or grandparent passed down? What would you say to your grandparents now, if you had the chance? Can you please explain to us all how computers actually work?