The Gallery: Grandparents

This week’s Gallery theme at Tara’s blog Sticky Fingers is “Grandparents”, which has been a melancholy one for me as all of my grandparents have passed away. The only one of my grandparents that ANY of my kidlings knew was Papa Dan.

Papa Dan was my grandmother Flora’s partner (my Grandpa Fritz passed away when I was only 3); they had been together for at least 25 years, and he always called her the love of his life. She was such a lovely, happy lady, always humming and singing to herself, slightly off-key — just like my Pea, actually. They lived part of the year just outside of Pasadena, CA and part of the year in an apartment across the street from my parents’ house in Illinois.

Not long after Gram passed away, Dan moved from Los Angeles to Illinois permanently, which was fortunate for us as we were able to see much more of him. He was one of a kind.

Papa Dan was sentimental. He kept all the cards and letters that Gram ever gave him, and after she died, he’d take them out and read them when he was missing her. He was the ONE person that you couldn’t just pluck a card off the rack for – you knew he would be keeping that card, and how much they meant to him, so you spent a lot of time finding just the right card.

He was always learning. He read constantly, particularly newspapers. He was also quite opinionated, and he could get into some conversations…you tried your best not to talk politics with him, needless to say.

He was born in 1919…and later in life learned to use the internet and email to keep in touch with people (which was fantastic, actually, because in his later years his hearing had worsened to the point that phone conversations were reduced to “NO Dan. IT’S JENNY! ITS * JENNY! JENNY!”) He also had an account on Facebook, and he used it. As my Dad told him, “there’s no age limit on Facebook”. My friend always said that we should check out these hearing amplifiers reviews and get him one. She always said that they can really help people who struggle to hear and understand. Perhaps we should’ve got him one, then he might’ve been able to have a proper conversation without the need for shouting!

He called everyone “love” or “my love”.

He was writing his memoirs. I now possess all of his notebooks with the intention of transcribing them and printing them up for family.

He had a guitar, and played it until the very end – he said it kept his mind active, and he would write songs, as well. Never mind that the guitar was painfully out of tune – he couldn’t hear, anyway, bless him. Boo, my little musician, would bring HIS guitar over sometimes and they would “play” together, although most of the time Boo just played Papa Dan’s guitar. One of my favorite memories is of Papa Dan and his guitar, with my children and my nieces surrounding him, playing their own instruments and singing along.

The biggest influence Papa Dan had (and still has) on my children, though, was the mantra “Be adventurous”. He always told me “you don’t have to like everything, but you have to try it before you say you don’t like it”. You had to take one bite of everything, and if you didn’t like it? You could spit the offending bite out into a napkin, provided you remained polite about it (just – shhh – don’t tell my Mom he said THAT bit to us…)

To this day, my five year old will try something new (which is a big deal, as she is THE pickiest eater alive) and even if she didn’t like it, will say “Papa Dan would be proud of me” or “Papa Dan is smiling down from heaven at me – I tried it, and I liked it!”

I know that he is on their minds, as last week, out of the blue, Pea came looking for me to ask “when did Papa Dan die?” She needed to know the EXACT date.

Why? I still have no idea what was driving the need for this particular information, but it comforts me to know that he continues to be an influence on them.

For more stories of grandparents, pop on over to read this week’s Gallery entries on Sticky Fingers blog!


  1. Jenn, you got him so right. I have tears right now. Wish you had the picture of him and his gang jammin it out. How he loved those times.

  2. Sheila Reeves says

    Beautiful post, can feel the love and special place he had in your family all through this post and in the photos too

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