Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grandpa's Glasses

Frank Stewart Johnson - About 1975
I have never forgotten that September day in 1975.  I was home from school sick…which was a pretty rare occurrence.  Mom had me ensconced on the couch with a blanket and a glass of squirt when the phone rang.  I could tell from Mom’s face that it was bad news.  She did something that I had never seen her do…she called my Dad out at work.  About a half hour later, Dad was home and they were packing getting ready to leave.  My Dad’s father had died that morning and the only thing that my parents were thinking about was getting to Canby, OR as fast as they could, so they could be with my grandmother.  Plans were made for my great uncle to bring us down the next day, but they never came to fruition.  I think I went to the neighbors and within a short amount of time, Mom and Dad were on the road to Oregon.

I was only 8 years old when Grandpa Frank died.  I’m not sure that I really understood the concept that much, but I knew from the look on my parent’s faces that it was bad.  I really had only been around him a handful of times in my short life that I remembered.  My most vivid memories of him involve candy and peeling an orange.  I can remember on one occasion when we were visiting my grandparents that we had to go to the store for something.  Once we arrived, my grandfather handed the list to my father and took my hand and took me over to the barrels of penny candy.  He patiently helped me pick out a very personal bag of candy of all of my favorites and another bag for my siblings.  I felt special though…I had my own special bag.  I think that all of Grandpa Frank’s grandchildren got the lesson of peeling an orange.  We would sit on the floor by the coffee table while he rolled the orange around to soften the peel and then would peel the orange in one long peel.  To this day, when I smell a freshly peeled orange, I still think of my grandfather.

Once my parents arrived in Canby, OR, my father dove into the process to help my grandmother deal with the numerous details concerning a funeral service.  When my Grandmother, Dad and his sisters saw Grandpa Frank, they all agreed that he didn’t quite look right.  They decided that it must be the glasses.  So, a trip was made home to collect his glasses which were always on top of the fridge.  The glasses were added and he looked better…but still not quite right.  But that was the way it was going to have to be.  The next day dawned and the funeral was held.  I don’t think that there were many of my Grandpa Frank’s family members there, except his sister – since most of them lived in North Dakota.  However, my Grandmother’s family showed up in force. 
Taken at Grandpa Frank's Funeral - Left to Right - Shirley, Fran, Grandma Marian, Gene, Mary Kay & Anne
Later that afternoon, Dad, his sisters and their spouses sat around the kitchen table with Grandma, talking about the service and I supposed what needed to be done.  As it was time for my Uncle Karl and Aunt Shirley to depart, Karl walked over to the refrigerator and took his glasses down from the top and placed them on his face.  Within a few moments, everyone realized that there was a reason that those glasses hadn't looked quite right – they were Karl’s.  Uncle Karl still says to this day, that Grandpa Frank pulled one over on him.  I suppose it was just the funny coincidence that was needed so everyone could get a good laugh.

Back in 2006, Grandma made the decision to move Grandpa Frank and his sister, Mary up to Freeze Cemetery.  So, they were exhumed and cremated and brought up to Idaho for a gathering to bury them in a cemetery that was not that far from the home where Grandma and Grandpa raised their children.  I can remember joking with Karl that we could still get his glasses back.  We had to explain to some family members what had happened – and once again everyone had a good laugh about how Uncle Karl’s glasses were buried with Grandpa Frank.  
Taken in 1972 - Grandma & Grandpa in the back - Russ, Chris, Gwenda and myself (Carmen ) in the front!