My dad's father died four years ago on April 11. He was the first grandparent I lost; I was 27 years old. My grandparents never lived near us when I grew up. At 55 my grandfather retired from Eastman Kodak, and he and my grandma moved out to Prescott, Arizona. My grandfather helped to design and build his dream home on a mountainside looking out over the hills of Prescott and the small city below. He wanted land and space and clean air. He and my grandmother were natives of New York City. They both grew up in the city and didn't have the experience of suburbia. After World War II my grandparents moved to Rochester, NY to settle and raise a family. Those were the days when Kodak was king and Rochester was the headquarters. Many people moved here for a job and stayed in that job for 30+ years until retirement. My grandparents were the first owners of their 2 bedroom, 1300 square foot cape-cod set on a 50 foot lot;it was part of one of the many new developments popping up in small towns across America. Rochester was growing as were many cities after the end of the war. After having their third child they decided not to move but to add on and create a first floor master and another bedroom on the second floor. From there they had 2 more children.
Even though my grandparents lived in Arizona and I in NY, we were very close. They came back once a year and we went out to visit for many vacations. It was beautiful out west and such a different place than I was used to. I have many lovely memories of my grandparents home in Arizona and all the things we used to do when we were there- play on the huge boulders, sneaking candy out of grandpa's candy drawer, eating peanuts and throwing the shells off their expansive deck overlooking the city.
My grandparents moved back to Rochester when they were too old and sick to take care of themselves. It was very sad to see my grandfather lose his wonderful home in the desert. Getting old is so difficult and it was hard to watch both of my grandparents decline in health and their ability to live their lives. My grandfather was an engineer, a pioneer in his thinking and an overall intelligent and wise man. He taught his children many things, and one of his biggest lessons was that you can do and be anything you want.
Today my father handed me an article dated 1996 with a letter attached to it written by my grandfather. The article is basically about American ideals and the contradictions our society sometimes faces- our respect for the individual, economic vitality, passion for progress lead us to more crime, family breakdown (higher divorce rate) and economic inequality. The letter written by my grandfather states that as Americans we had gotten away from the importance of family, a de-emphasis on right or wrong, less respect for authority.
He wrote," Somehow we've got to get back to strong families, a restoration of our Constitution, more acceptance of personal responsibility... We don't have to have all the bad things with the good things."
My perfect moment is what my father said when he handed me the letter. "I want people to remember my dad for who he was." He wants his legacy as a great thinker to carry on. He wants his children who may have been too young to understand their grandfather and his own grandchildren to know their great grandfather better. I know my dad idolized his father. It's wonderful to think of my dad and his dad in this way. I know that I idolize my mother and father, and I can only hope that my children think the same of me some day.
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*on a side note- I wonder what my grandpa would think of the fact that we are still facing these issues in America 12 years later- on top of all the other horrible stories coming out everyday of people being swindled and taken advantage of.