Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Grandpa

The first memory I have of my Grandpa Zundel was when my younger brother was born. Grandpa, who we actually called Church, picked up me and my older brother and took us home to Richmond with him. That sounds really boring, when actually it was the most exciting thing that had happened in my short, 3 year life. He took us home in a private plane. I had blonde pigtails and wore the sweater he had brought me from a trip to Germany. A man in a brown suit on the plane tried to talk to me, but I don't think I answered. It was so terribly exciting. I'm also pretty sure that on that trip I slept in his closet. Did his closet have a couch? Or did they have a sitting room attached to their bedroom?

He had a green leather chair. He always sat in that chair to watch TV. We loved sitting in that chair. The one he had for the longest time had a huge indentation in the seat. It was like sitting in a bucket. Grandpa did not like it when we sat there, but it was just so comfortable.

Once when we were staying with them one summer, my Grandpa came home from work. He took the train into Chicago. He had been pick-pocketed. I remember in detail how he reenacted someone crawling over to him on the platform and pulling on his pant leg, creating the diversion for someone else to take his wallet. I was horrified. He enjoyed telling a good story, and could tell them well. Then, after cancelling credit cards, he took us out to dinner. I think we went to Carsons for ribs.

He had phrases that were uniquely his: cockeyed. Sam Hill. Hotter than a June bride in a feather bed.

He was a collegiate athlete who, as a catcher for Princeton, knocked out George Bush as he was rounding for home. It's a story that is oft repeated in our family, and we've even heard President Bush tell his version. Grandpa Zundel always makes an impression.

He gave me my Patriarchal Blessing. In fact, I was the first one he gave. He sealed Curly and me in the DC Temple. And when Curly and I were having some problems a few years ago, he called me on the phone to tell me how much he loved me. He lived in a different time zone by the time I was 8, but while we were in school, still came out every season to see my brothers, sister, and I play a game or act in a play. He visited me on my mission. He and Grandma followed me around Temple Square as I gave a tour and took pictures. Then they took me and my companion out to dinner at the very fancy Roof Restaurant.

One summer he bought all the girl cousins pretty gold necklaces. When asked where he got them, he vaguely said, "From a guy I know." To this day I have pictured a deal in a back alley where the guy opens a tan trench coat and has necklaces hanging inside.

The last time I saw him, I was pregnant with Ginger. We went to church with Church and Grandma Jeanne, and out to lunch the next day at The Cheesecake Factory. I am pretty sure he did not call me by name that entire time. Alzheimer's was setting in. Truth be told, I think he thought I was my mom. He sang the Princeton Fight Song the entire time to my kids. They thought he was hilarious.

He was a giant of a man who left a huge impression on my life. Yesterday, at the age of 90, he passed away. My heart aches for my Grandma. And, my heart aches for me. He called me Janaboo and he made me feel so special. I was his favorite. I know his reunion in heaven has been sweet. I am so thankful for eternal families. I will see him again. That knowledge is sweet.


blue star stitcher said...

Your grandfather sounds like a very special man, so sorry for your family's loss.

Unknown said...

This is a lovely story, such a testament to your grandfather and your relationship. These are important thoughts and feelings that will be passed down to your children. I'm so glad you wrote that and have it to pass on. Thanks for sharing.

Thimbleanna said...

Awww Jana, I'm so sorry. When your story started, I was afraid that it would end the way it did. What a touching post -- your Grandpa sounds like he was a wonderful man. XOXO

Karen said...

What a wonderful tribute to your Grandfather. You were so lucky to have such a kind and generous man as your grandfather. Such wonderful memories.

Patty said...

Grandma and I are laughing and crying over this touching remembrance. You made Grandma Jeanne smile this morning. Thank you.

teamZ said...

I just read this post. It was lovely. Luckily, I am not in the contest for Grandpa's favorite but I think it could become a warm dispute amongst family.