For as long as I can remember my Grandpa Swenor wore his Michigan Bell work anniversary ring as his wedding ring. I think he lost his ring in the bathroom on a camping trip or something and my grandma refused to buy him another one- which I always found pretty funny. He didn’t need a ring to remind him of his commitment to her.
Through the years Grandpa told us stories of his work on the telephone lines. Though he was relatively short, he shared stories of climbing to the highest pole or holding the heaviest poles; stories of other men saying he couldn’t do it and him showing them that he can.
Grandpa was pretty stubborn- a trait I’m pretty sure has been passed on to most of his children and grand children, and maybe even a few of the great-grandchildren.
I loved to hear Grandpa tell stories of his childhood growing up during the depression with 12 brothers and sisters. He told of sledding accidents where he was whipped for not taking care of his younger sibling who ended up bloodied. He told of how his lunch pale was a reused tub that used to hold lard, and how one day he accidentally took a tub full of actual lard instead of his lunch. He told of how his parents didn’t value education and his time playing football. He told of the young deaths of some of his siblings.
Grandpa was the last of all his siblings to pass on.
I also loved hearing stories of how Grandpa and Grandma met. Once while looking through boxes we found a dance card of my grandpa’s with my grandma’s name – Gayle Hartung – in every time slot. He told of how Grandma’s family didn’t like him and how he refused to close the curtain at the end of a play when grandma had to kiss another boy, in order to embarrass them both. He told of their elopement.
My grandpa was definitely a family man. If there was one value most dear to him, it was definitely family. Grandpa was never too busy to spend time with his kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids. He made it to several of our sporting events, always being sure to correct the announcer if he pronounced our name wrong.
I’ll never forget how my grandpa handled my grandma’s death almost 20 years ago. His world was turned upside down. They had been a team for over 50 years. Still, an upbeat man, my grandpa did not wallow in self-pity. He was honest about his grief and how hard it was, but he kept himself busy and continued to connect with others in the community. He used to make what he called “my rounds,” around Petoskey- meeting one group for coffee here, and another group for coffee there, and stopping by a friend’s office, and doing his physical workout before starting yet another round of golf.
My grandpa also drank ridiculous amounts of coffee. We’re talking 12+ cups a day.
I remember projects in Middle School when my grandpa helped us create wooden houses. I remember so many Christmases at his house were he would watch us play games with our cousins. I remember how he loved for us to rub lotion on his bald head.
From my grandpa I learned to value family. I learned to stay positive. I learned to be a hard worker. I learned to have pride in my name. I learned to love with my whole heart. I learned to enjoy nature.
When I think about my grandpa, I picture how every time we visited and walked into his house he would literally JUMP out of his chair, open his arms for a hug, and exclaim, “Krista!” or “girls!” like we were the best thing that he’d ever seen.
I will miss that smile and those hugs.