Forty-three years ago today my grandfather, John Joseph Hanselman died after a long struggle with MS. He was bedridden and in the hospital for 11 years, nearly silent until a final day of nearly complete lucidity before slipping away.
My grandmother, now 90 and a joy, saw my grandfather in the 7th grade and announced to her best friend that she would marry that man right there, and she did. They had three kids, Michael, David (my father), and Susan who died after a struggle with MS as well.
I often look at his face and think, what a kind man this fellow seems. I am proud to - as some have said - share my grandfather's face, if only in a small way.
My dad is now a Grandpa himself and although my parents live quite a few cities away, he's up playing with Z a couple of times a week at least.
He can't begin to imagine how much that means to me, for Z to have a Grandpa when I didn't. He can't begin to understand what at fine job he and Mom did raising my brother and I. Every few years, usually around the Holidays he says something like "You're both great boys, you're not on drugs, and you're doing what you love."
Some of my earliest memories of my dad were of him telling my brother and I that if Ditch Digging was our passion then we should dig the best damn ditches we could. He told me to open doors for women and treat them with respect.
When I wanted money, he encouraged me at 14 to get a job, and I did, folding shirts at Nordstrom. When I asked for a car at 16, he said "good luck with that!" but when I did buy my $300 Datsun he helped me fix it up. He always had that way of pushing without shoving, enabling without being a crutch.
I was a fantastic nerd in school (Scott? No, really? You don't say? Please, go on...) but when my Dad showed up for Show-And-Tell with the entire Fire Engine and dressed up my 4th grade class in all things Fire-Bureau, for a day I was the coolest kid in school. Dad does stuff like that. He's always thinking of others; what he can do for others.
Sometimes I'll see a shadow or a glimpse of my Dad in a window as I pass, and when I turn to greet him, it's me. Sometimes when I'll ask a sick child "You feelin' a little punky, kiddo?" and I hear my Dad's voice in mine.
When I stop by a local Fire Station to visit my younger brother, a fire-fighter like my dad was for 30 years, the old timers at the station squint and me and announce, "You're Hanselman's kid, right" before I open my mouth and I smile and ask "Is it that obvious?" (Of course, then next query is always "Are you the Computer One?" and my smile quickly fades, but that's another post. ;) )
My Dad didn't know his Dad, didn't have a father for nearly long enough. He was robbed of a Father and it makes me heartsick. But he persevered, raised in the 60's by a single mother when it wasn't fashionable - and it certainly wasn't easy.
I am so happy to have these experiences of my Dad and I forget how blessed I am every day that he's in my life, and now in my son's life as uKhulu kaZ*.
Thanks Dad for being a Grandfather to my son, a Father to Josh and I, and more and more, my Friend.
*The Grandpa of Z