Today’s topic is one I was excited to write about and that is my grandparents. Of the original four “blood” grandparents, only my grandpa Carl (mom’s dad) is still alive. However because my Grandma Sharon (Mom’s mom) was fond of nuptials and weddings, I do have a couple bonus grandpas! I’ve reflected quite a bit on my grandparents in the last couple years after the death of my Grandma Beem (Dad’s mom) in 2020. She was probably the grandparent I was closest with and saw the most regularly since she lived very close by.
At Granda Beem’s funeral in September of 2020 my cousin Madeline had made a tribute video for the service. It was filled with photos of Grandma Beem (her name was Gladys) from her childhood in Papillion, Nebraska during the 1920s and 30s, all the way up to her final days in 2020. What struck me so much watching those photos go by was how little I ever thought or realized about my grandparents when they were young. What I mean is, I only knew them for the Grandma/Grandpa portion of their lives. I knew them as old people! Seeing those photos made me truly appreciate the entirety of my Grandma Beem’s human experience. That she was once young. Once in school. That she had dreams like every young person does. That she had a first job and a first kiss and a first plane ride.
As a kid I always loved to ask my Grandparent’s about their lives when they were younger. About where they grew up, about the wars that both my Grandpa’s fought in. About places they travelled. About my parents when they were kids. But seeing those videos of my Grandma Beem made me truly wish I had asked her more about her life beyond what I knew. I always made a point to call my Grandma Beem at least a couple times a month as an adult. Whenever I would drive cross country I would always call all my grandparents just because it was such a good time to catch up and they always seemed to like to hear of my travels. Whenever I’m in the South I call my Grandpa Carl because his wife Mary Ann is from Alabama. When I was in Savannah a few weeks ago I called her and we talked all about how great Savannah is (it’s really great, visit if you get a chance.)
My Grandpa Beem died when I was thirteen and was really my first experience with death. I still remember my mom picking me up from 7th grade basketball tryouts and telling me that he had died suddenly at age 73. I remember my dad and Grandpa Beem had had a dumb little spat shortly before his death and hadn’t talked for a few weeks which I know hurt my dad a lot. My Grandpa Beem taught me how to fish and golf and was always such a fun grandfather. One of my best and last memories with him was the summer of 1993, just a couple months before his passing, he took me up to Twin Lakes in Northeastern Washington to go fishing for a week. We always used to go to the cabin at the lake every year, but we went as a huge extended family. This time it was just me and Grandpa Beem.
Grandpa Beem worked his entire career for United Airlines but I honestly don’t know exactly what he did there. My Grandpa Carl worked for NASA and Boeing as a mathematician. He tutored math in his retirement for many years after that. Such a smart guy and a superbly kind man. They moved to the San Juan Islands in the mid 90s and they have this great little house that sits on a cliff and overlooks the water and the Ferry path. I try and visit when I get a chance and hope to again this fall.
My Grandpa Burr (Mom’s stepdad) also deserves a mention because he was also a great Grandpa to me. I believe he’s 6’6″ or so and was always such a gentle giant. He had a son later in life named Zach and Zach is like 6 months older than I am, yet he’s my uncle. He loves to refer to me as his nephew even though we graduated high school the same year haha.
Overall, I feel as though I was blessed with amazing grandparents. They always were excited to see me, to go to my sports games, to hear from me on a phone call, and to tell me about their lives when I inquired. They were and are links to our family history and even in death, I hold memories of them very close to me.