What always surprised me about Grandpa Norm was that he spent his career as a butcher, deconstructing living things with a knife.
It’s surprising because the Grandpa I knew always liked to fix, build and grow things. He spent hours upon hours in his garden or garage tinkering, toying and planting.
Some of my earliest memories are in Grandpa’s backyard. In fact, I distinctly remember upon every visit running down stairs, flinging open the screen door to the backyard and finding grandpa tending to his garden. I spent my afternoons asking questions, tasting cherry tomatoes, searching for perfect peas to pick and, of course, harvesting carrots.
It’s there that I learned that fava beans are delicious, that picking carrots is the best simple pleasure in life and that potato bugs are the scariest creatures I’ll ever touch with my bare hands.
Grandpa’s garage, on the other hand, was a treasure trove of antiques. Each trip to his workshop maze resulted in a history or mechanics lesson. His history lessons were taught at every old newspaper clipping and mechanics at every old cigar box that held nails or screws.
I got some of my best lessons on presidential campaigns sitting on a stool in grandpa’s workshop. And I also learned that if I couldn’t fix something, I should go ask grandpa.
When his body preventing him from doing the things he loved, he used his resourceful mind and generous spirit to help others build and fix the things he once did so well. He could tell Jeff how to add something to his new home or help Chris build a bookshelf.
As Grandpa became housebound in recent years, he retained a pretty good spirit. Partly, I think, because he could sit back and reap the fruits of his labor. I will always remember the way he smiled upon seeing his grandchildren and all six of his great grandchildren, who made frequent trips to his home.
Because of my grandfather, I believe that life’s troubles can be buried in fertile soil, that helping people is both a talent and blessing and that the true happiness comes from the simple things in life. For grandpa, there was always a reason to smile.