The Diamond Anniversary of Dick Howard

My grandpa Howard was born 100 years ago today.

He didn’t live to see 100.

He died at 73 on Halloween. I haven’t felt the same about the holiday since. But he died in a way that sounds pretty nice. He had made apple dumplings (the peeler was still attached to the counter and the dumplings were in the fridge) and he was all ready to disappoint the neighborhood kids with a bowl full of cheap candy. He raked the leaves, came in to take a nap, and never woke up.

He died in the same house he was born in.

He was the first person I was really close to that died.

But let’s quit with the details of his death and talk about the details of his life.

Whenever I find myself being too responsible, running early, or doing something because it simply should be done (not out of any desire to do it) I quickly remember that I am Dick Howard’s  granddaughter. He was an amazing man. He worked a blue collar job. Raised 3 daughters. Took a vacation pretty much every year. Went deer hunting around Thanksgiving. Built a pottery wheel in his basement. Gave me drinks of water from a fabulous metal dipper. Always had doublemint gum and let me put sugar in my iced tea.

Everytime I drink sweet tea I think of Grandpa. I think of how he would have truly appreciated the house wine of the South, if for no other reason then being able to skip all that stirring. He would stir and stir and stir and stir, trying to get that sugar melted. But it never really did. He taught me you had to stir it really well and quickly take a drink. This had to happen before each drink if you wanted your iced tea to be sweet. Oh how he’d enjoy the sweet tea around here….

My Grandpa wasn’t really fond of my dad. He and my dad both worked at the National Standard plant and one day he saw my dad peeing in the parking lot. Not like in the middle of it or something…but behind a car or bush. Regardless, it wasn’t right. When my parents divorced, I would argue that my Grandpa wasn’t bummed. We all knew this and the first time my Dad dropped my off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house I was shocked at how cold my Grandpa was to my dad. Even at 4 years old I found the whole thing offputting. Turns out that my Grandpa hadn’t recognized my dad and was just being cordial to the man who was dropping off his granddaughter. Once we figured this out we all laughed and I’m pretty sure my dad was later welcomed into the house with open arms and greeted with a hug.

As I write this I am struck with how few distinct memories I have of my Grandpa. I am also struck with, even in the absence of these memories, how much I still miss him. I wish he was around to help me with things at my house. I think he’d LOVE my dog and maybe even like my cat (although he believed the only good cat was a dead cat).  I wish he knew how important he is to me. I wish he knew how every time I see the first lighting bugs I think of him punching holes in the top of a jar lid for me to catch them. How I would catch as many as I could and he would let me sleep on the mud porch with them for light. How he never made fun of me for getting scared from the lack of light on the mud porch and ended up back inside, leaving the lightning bugs to die outside. I wonder if he had as much fun grocery shopping with me as I did him? I wonder how he made store brand macaroni and cheese so yummy. I wish he taught me to make bread….he made the BEST bread.

I could go on and on about the random little things that make me think of my Grandpa. I always wished that he and my Grandma Haley were married….maybe that’s happened in heaven now. Man…that would be so amazing.

Happy 100th Grandpa! I love you more then you ever knew and will love you forever.

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