Monday, October 8, 2012

If You Can't Be Good, Be Good At It

I've probably written this post in my head about 20 times now but I haven't actually put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keyboard.  My grandpa, Doyle Rardin, was laid to rest a week ago today.  He was 80 years old and he loved his wife, kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.  During his funeral service, it was mentioned how much he loved his grandkids and great-grandkids and as I went through pictures with my cousins later, in almost every picture with him and a grandchild he was never looking at the camera.  He always looked at whoever he was holding with a smile on his face.

Grandpa & me, age 2
Its hard to lose a fixture of your childhood.  I was obsessed with horses as a kid and dreamt of the day I would have my own.  During this horse obsession, my grandpa would have ponies, donkeys, and mules at the farm.  The first pony, Pumpkin, was as close as I was going to get to a real horse and if I used my imagination, she was the real deal.  Grandpa would always saddle up Pumpkin whenever I asked and despite my kicks, would never go faster than a walk.  (The only time I've seen Pumpkin run is when my sister was riding her and she took off for the fields.  I can still see my sister bouncing in the saddle and hear my uncles running after them, yelling but never spilling a drop of beer they were holding.)  In college, I will never forget when he punched a donkey in the face after he told it to stop nibbling on his collar.  It was as crazy as it sounds.  I know my Grandpa had a tough life and was a tough SOB, but he was always gentle and kind with me.

As sad as I've been to lose my Grandpa, I've really enjoyed reconnecting with my cousins and hearing their stories and memories.  We went back to the farm after the service and lunch to look around their house, farm, and shop.  I found the outfits my Grandma made for the ceramic goose that sits on the front step and touched the kitchen table that we ate Grandma's homemade noodles.  I haven't spent much time in the barn because there was always animals and poop out there (and let's be honest, I'm a city girl), but I remember going out there to visit Pumpkin as a kid and I swear I could hear her behind the barn door that day.  In his shop we saw his new tractor and the stuff he's accumulated over the years.  He loved to go to auctions and one of the first few times I brought Matt over to visit, he took Matt out to his shop to have him look at a saw he bought.  I even went into the basement, a place I'd never been allowed to go before (I asked as a kid and was told no, I didn't care as a teenager, and now I wanted to see it for myself).  The basement was stinky and anti-climatic.  There was a fridge full of mason jars and all I could think was, how in the hell did they get that fridge down here.  I assume there was lots of heavy lifting and profanity involved.

The only thing missing was the rest of the cousins and a wiffle ball game.  We never did find the wiffle ball and bat, but the satellite dish that was first base wasn't their either so it wouldn't have been the same.

Rardin cousins in front of the barn

Even though Grandpa is gone and we are losing Grandma to Alzheimer's, I'm happy to have found my cousins again to keep the Rardin memories and personalities alive.  I love hearing and telling the same stories about how Jason, the oldest cousin, at the age of 16 was put in time out for going outside and "did his time" in time out before driving himself away.  And I will never forget how proud Grandpa was when I was 21 and he asked me if I wanted a beer.  He was so proud to drink a beer with me and I with him.  And my sister and I still laugh about the time Grandpa asked if we wanted a beer and he said, "I've got the good stuff, The Select" (Budweiser Select).

I asked him once what his favorite kind of beer was and he said, "I prefer cold and I'll drink it warm, but free is the best".

The last Christmas we were all together my cousin's wife asked where their dog was and Grandma told her the dog had died.  Later my cousin Brooks asked my Grandpa when Susie, the St. Bernard, had died and Grandpa replied "when I shot her".  I know that sounds harsh to us city folk, but he was a country guy and that's what country guys do when they need to.  And it sounds awful that we laugh at that story, but that's him to a T.

Me on Grandpa's new tractor

After our visits with Grandpa when we were hugging and kissing goodbye, he would always say "If you can't be good, be good at it".  Reflecting back on his life reminds me to be a good wife and mother.  To love wholeheartedly and as hard as I can on my family and friends.  And as cliche as it sounds, life is short.  Don't waste my time on people who aren't worth it and focus on the good I have instead of what I don't have.  I can hear his voice in my head calling me a blockhead, a common term he used, when I catch myself in a moment of sadness with tears welling up behind my eyes.  So now, instead of getting to see him, I have his voice in my head and heart to help me through the tough times and drink a, proverbial, beer with me in the good times.

Grandpa, 2009, wearing the tiara to make his grandkids smile


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