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  • Jerome Kocher

32. My Own Grandpa

My Grandpa was named after me. He had the same first name as my middle name, William. But we called him Grandpa Bill. My grandparents lived in southern rural Illinois, descended from a community of German immigrant farmers. The cemetery tombstones prove that, with names like Klingler, Fehrenbacher and Kocher going back to mid to late 1800’s.

Bib overalls and a midday dinner were the signature of a working farm. But growing up, my family lived in Sacramento, California, so every two years we made a pilgrimage back to the homestead in the Midwest. It was our Mecca. Instead of walking around the Kaaba seven times we would circumnavigate the pond and the surrounding woods. Fish and squirrels were our mantra. They were wild, unlike our domesticated chickens back home. We were in heaven or close to it.

For the record, I don’t remember any wise sayings or words of wisdom from Grandpa. I don’t even remember him speaking. But his actions spoke volumes. He was a quiet gentle giant. And when I sat in his lap it was like sitting on his powerful tractor. He didn’t need to prove anything. He just was.

Grandma Matilda, almost half his size, was very different. And she did speak. What I remember most are her words to my father several years before I was born. I know that because they are enshrined in family mythology. It was right after WWII ended and my dad’s job in the defense industry in Los Angeles disappeared. So in his wisdom he packed up my mother, his two daughters and everything they owned in a small 10x7 foot trailer and drove back to Illinois to start life anew. Buy a farm if possible. But my grandmother had different intentions. In no uncertain terms, and now I’m transcribing from legend, she took him aside to have the ‘talk.’ “I did not allow my daughter to marry you so you could come back here and be a pig farmer. You take your family back to California and make something of yourself. Understood?” Like grandpa, my father didn’t need to speak. He got the message. But he had already given up his space at the trailer court in Los Angeles. Maybe he could move to Northern California and just visit grandma . . . every other year.

But this is about my Grandpa. He would take me fishing at his own pond. And for bait we used . . . yes, you guessed it, coffee grounds. It was actually grandma’s idea so she should get the credit. Every morning she would put the morning grinds in the flower bed by the front porch. Worms loved this. So we would dig into the grinds and gather a bunch of worms every time we went fishing.

Now to a seven year old boy the size of the fish did not matter. There was no park ranger patrolling Grandpa’s farm and measuring my four inch sunfish. My badge of honor was the number of fish in the bucket. And my bucket was usually full. But once I remember fishing all day, only to turn around to find all the fish had splashed out of the bucket and did not survive the dry dirt. I had taken my “eye off the ball.” I had become so proud of each little catch that I totally forgot the big picture behind me in the bucket. You could notch this up as a life lesson. From the farm. From Grandpa. But no, this was self-inflicted. I deserve all the credit. An omen of things to come as a life-long learner.

So back to Grandpa. His gentle quiet nature was a comfort, just like the silence I can find within myself today. If I sit with it long enough, it too becomes a comfort, a pond of contemplation, full of life and nourishment. And I don’t even need bait. Not even coffee.

Grandpa Bill would be proud of me today. I love fish. I love silence. And I’ve learned to keep my eye on the bucket. If you can do that and feel like you’re sitting in the lap of strength, protected and nourished, then everyone and everything becomes a “Grandpa.”

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Catherine Torres
Catherine Torres
04 de mai. de 2021

"Like Son, Like Grandpa." - C.T

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