January 24, 2010

A Gift from my Grandpa

Tomorrow marks the 16th anniversary of when my Grandpa passed away. You would think that after so many years it would get a little easier, but he is never completely out of my thoughts, and when I think of him, my eyes still well up with tears from missing him. I think that I can safely say that he, out of all the people I've known in my life, had the greatest impact on who I am today.


My grandparents were both blind; my grandma from birth, and my grandpa completely lost his sight from glaucoma when he was 13 years old, although it had been going for years. To say that they were amazing people is an understatement. My grandpa was a piano tuner, with grandma working as his secretary, "booking" all of his jobs for him, keeping track of all their customers with an enormous card-file system done in braille. I can still hear her voice on the phone in the evenings, working away while grandpa cooked us dinner in the kitchen (I still miss his macaroni and cheese he made from scratch). "This is Mary Collins, the piano tuner's wife..."

When I got my driver's license at age 14 (the state of Idaho had to be nuts to give licenses that early!), my grandpa officially put me on the payroll to drive him to tuning jobs on Saturdays. Being such a young, inexperienced driver, he has no idea how often he was close to death, and his being blind was a blessing to both of us - him so he couldn't see what almost hit us (as I drifted into the oncoming traffic because I was too busy watching my speedometer. I certainly didn't want to be caught speeding!), and me, because he couldn't appropriately react to the same.

Those Saturdays were wonderful not only because I got to earn some much-needed spending money, but because I got to spend hours and hours of one-on-one time with grandpa. He could talk knowledgeably about everything from how ancient Romans built their roads to giving me tips on how to drive in the snow. We'd talk about books, boys, cooking, you name it. More than anything, he listened to me and constantly encouraged me to be better at whatever it was I was doing. He taught me to stop and enjoy the little things, letting me drive miles and miles out of the way on a trip we once took to Boise so that I could see a historic site in the middle of nowhere, a giant rock where early pioneers had carved their names. He also taught me to not be afraid to sing out (something I love, but which I really am not very good at) because I shouldn't let other people take away my joy. When I went through a phase of reading horror stories, he gently talked to me about the concept of "garbage in - garbage out."

He was also the original (and best) GPS system. Even though he was blind, he could give step-by-step directions on how to drive to any given address in what seemed like the entire state of Idaho; southern Idaho at the very least. "Turn east on St. Clair (or whatever that direction was) and then..." Right on track, we'd pull up to the exact address that we were looking for. Unfortunately, I never did get the hang of figuring out east/west/north/south in southern Idaho, because there were no landmarks to guide me. I'd always ask, "Which way is that- left or right?" Then he'd proceed to give me a lesson on the position of the sun in the sky, which side it was shining on your face, etc. etc. I never did figure that out, but I'd give anything to listen to him tell it to me again.

Last week, I received a note from an old high school friend on Facebook (well, not OLD, because we aren't really that old, are we?!) asking me "wasn't your grandpa a piano tuner?" It turns out that she inherited the family piano that her parent's had gotten when she was little. Being out of tune, she did a little digging to see when it had last been tuned. Inside was the following business card, with a March 1982 date. The tuner? My grandpa...


I can't help but feel that this was a special gift from Grandpa, still giving me encouragement when I need it, just another of many gifts he's given me throughout my life. The best gift of all though was just having him in my life. He was patience, kindness, and love personified. There was none better...

(A special thanks to Krista for letting me use her beautiful photography! I wish I had half her talent. To see more on her blog, click here.)

4 comments:

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

What a beautiful post Trace. I wish I had had the chance to get to know him better. Everything I have ever heard has been lovely. It sounds as though he was a wonderful, kind and brilliant man.

Lo said...

He was something, wasn't he? Wish my girls had known him. I was one lucky girl to have a daddy like that.

kris... said...

Aw, Tracy, what an awesome man he was! I am so glad I found that card (which right after I clean off the top of the piano and get the card out, I will send to you). Beautiful tribute!

Nicole Norris said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Gradfather. You are lucky that you were wise enough to appreciate his wisdom in your youth.