My last living grandparent, my Grandpa Richard Vivian, passed away at age 86, less than a week before Giada was born. Yesterday was his funeral. Since I was not able to be there, I wanted to take a minute to say goodbye to my grandpa, to share what he meant to me, and what he taught me.
My earliest memories of my grandpa are of him enjoying his home and working in his yard. He spent over forty years of his life in Marquette Michigan, in a picturesque home on the shoreline of Lake Superior. When I was a child, my family spent most of our holidays at my grandparents’ house in Marquette. I always looked forward to Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and the fourth of July because it not only meant celebration, it meant time at my grandparent’s house. Their home always felt warm and welcoming. And their yard was a child’s playground–canoes, four wheelers, a pontoon boat, a fishing dock, giant rocks to climb on, and an expansive beach and what seemed like an ocean-sized lake out back.
My grandpa was the guy who you would find outside in the garage or the yard, constantly fiddling with something. He always seemed more reserved and quiet to me, spending a lot of his time taking care of his house and yard. He had a flourishing garden out front. I remember he’d pick little red potatoes, wild raspberries and blueberries. He would take me fishing off of his dock and we would venture out on the pontoon through the bayou and the river to cruise the vast lake Superior. I would sit out front on the boat and dip my toes in the ice-cold lake.
I saw my grandpa last summer for the last time. I planned a trip back to Marquette specifically because I wanted to see my grandpa and have him meet Rocco. I’m so glad I went through the hassle of flying with Rocco. My grandpa was so genuinely happy to get to meet him. Days after we were gone, my grandpa talked about how happy he was to meet Rocco. It means so much to me, knowing how equally important it was to my grandpa.
As I think back on my grandpa’s life, through his actions, he taught me some very important lessons about how to live my life.
Although it is difficult to capture in words, my grandpa loved my grandma fully and completely. They were married over 50 years before my grandma passed away. My mom has told me many stories about how much he adored her. Even as a young child, I could just sense his devotion to her. My grandma had severe rheumatoid arthritis that affected her ability to walk and use her hands effectively. My grandpa selflessly took care of her for many years, never seeing her as a burden. They had the purest love, which is something everyone should aspire to.
My grandpa was an avid volunteer and active member of his community. He was well-known and loved for his work with the Shriners and his role as “Honky” the clown. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandpa making me up in clown makeup and me watching him get his clown face on for some of his events. Even in his last days, he still regularly dressed up to participate in parades and events for kids. Being an integral part of his community gave my grandpa purpose and meaning, especially after he retired.
Besides actively volunteering, my grandpa was constantly busy playing softball or golf, collecting golf balls or coins, visiting with friends, or keeping busy in the yard or garage. I believe that finding hobbies he loved kept my grandpa young and vibrant.
My grandparent’s house is nestled on a peninsula surrounded by water on both sides. Their front yard faces the bayou, a quite body of water where we’d fish and marvel over the blue herons that would fly by. In his backyard is the beach and shoreline of Lake Superior. I would regularly take walks on the beach with my grandma, bravely swim in the icy lake, and climb the giant boulders with my sister and cousins. So many of my best memories of my grandparents involve that gorgeous setting. Mesmerized by the waves as they crashed on the shore, toasting hot dogs at the campfire on the beach, watching fireworks on the pontoon in the middle of the lake. Even though he never said it to me, I know how much that home meant to him. The serene and gorgeous setting is almost indescribable. I’m so happy I got to spend so many holidays and summers up there, enjoying the peace that nature can bring.
My grandpa and grandma’s ashes will be scattered over Lake Superior. Their love of nature is explicit in the view they enjoyed for most of their lives and their choice of a final resting place.
A poem by Mary Frye:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Goodbye Grandpa, we miss you.