Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Remembering Grandpa


He was born on January 23, 1929. He was named Raymond Glenn but everyone called him Tommy, if you asked him how they came up with Tommy he would simply say “I have no idea.” He grew up in a little white house on Felton St. where his folks kept horses and chickens. His dad knew Tom Pendergast, or at least knew a guy who knew the guy, and so Grandpa drove asphalt trucks and helped pave downtown Kansas City when he was a teenager. He and his friends would pool their earnings to rent a plane and fly over Kansas City, which apparently was a thing young boys were allowed to do in the 1940s (which is wild to me).

One day he walked into a soda shop in Independence and saw Margaret Crick on the other side of the counter. He began to frequent the shop and occasionally would bring his sister, whom my Grandma mistook for his girlfriend and teenage antics ensued I’m sure. Before long things were sorted and they were smitten, a love that would last his entire life.

He had enlisted in the Navy and was often out at sea, but Grandma would make the train trip to the coast to see him when she could. They planned a December wedding while he would be home on leave, and Grandma wrote the invitations by hand… twice, because the date got changed due to Navy stuff. They were married in Independence, Missouri on December 21, 1952 where they would settle down and raise their family.

When he got home from the service Grandpa learned to build homes. He started R.G. Construction and built many of the homes up-and-down 39th Street and the surrounding areas. He built Grandma their first home on Overton which has a big picture window in the front, “Because she’d seen it in a picture from California and really wanted it – so I figured it out.” In a few years’ time they built their forever home on Christopher Circle just off 39th Street. To my mind, there are few better places then that home my Grandpa built.

They welcomed four children: Jill, Chris, Ray and Pat. Grandpa was a great dad. He coached football and helped decorate the Truman gym for school dances. He built a swimming pool in the backyard when the kids were old enough to be strong swimmers, and he always balanced his business with his family to ensure he could be there for them for whatever they needed. He took them on epic vacations, including the time he rented an RV to go to the beach and parked too close to the water – the family woke up during high tide and nearly floated off to sea.

As time marched on he became a grandpa, my Grandpa. When I was two I nearly choked to death on a piece of chicken and he saved my life by sticking his fingers down my throat – a heroic act I rewarded him for by nearly biting off his fingers. No matter how far away we moved, he would make the drive to Grandparent’s Days at our schools and recitals – all the way to Albuquerque if that’s what it took. He had a great smile and an easy presence, very assuring and gentle. I don’t remember a harsh word from my Grandpa, no matter how much of his adding machine tape I wasted pretending to run the business, no matter how many games we drug out, no matter how many of his secret stash of cookies we discovered.

When my Grandma died unexpectedly his world was turned upside down. For thirteen years he visited her grave daily, regardless of the weather, regardless of the holiday. Even in the midst of a big Christmas celebration he would stand up around noon and say, “I’ll be back” and drive over to sit with her for a while.

One summer evening several years ago I happened to be giving him a ride home from a family dinner and asked if he’d show me around his old stomping grounds. He showed me his house in Sugar Creek, and the house my Grandma lived in on Main Street, and the house he built her on Overton. As I pulled in the driveway that night he said, “I know some folks think I shouldn’t be going out to the cemetery every day, but Kate, she made me who I am – she was my everything.”

Even as his body and mind grew tired, he enjoyed his eleven great grandchildren. He attended ball games and concerts, and especially liked to have Gwyneth sit next to him on account of her red hair and the fact that he and his sisters had all had red hair when they were young. I am forever grateful that my kids got to know Grandpa and see his wonderful smile and lovely blue eyes shine at them, the way they’d shone at me when I was little.

On December 20, 2021 my Grandpa went to be with my Grandma where they can together know God’s perfect peace. He was gently and well cared for at home until the end by my Aunt Jill and her wife Suzanne, who made many sacrifices to ensure his wishes of staying at his home on Christopher Circle could be met. We’d had dinner with him just last week and though he was having a hard time knowing who we were, I’d always tell him I loved him when we’d leave and he’d always pat my back and say “I love you too babe.”

When Grandma died Grandpa asked me to think of what to put on the headstone. I came upon a saying that I hold in my heart this cold December morning as the world marches on without my beloved Grandparents in it: “In our hearts there is a promise that says death can never win, and a hope that will sustain us until we meet again.”

I love you, Grandpa.


Jenn Beard said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your grandpa. So sorry for your loss. <3

memo said...

Thank you for sharing the moments that tell us who your grandpa really was. Peace. Laurie

D B Potts said...

What an incredible tribute. I’ve read it twice, and have teared up each time. I didn’t know him, and only met him a couple of times many years ago, but I could sense in him what was in this tribute.

Vickie said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. Thank you for sharing his life's journey. He obviously leaves a bright legacy of love in your heart and many others. I appreciate you sharing it with us. Rest in peace.