Eleven years ago today was one of the saddest mornings of my life. This world lost one of the greatest people it has ever known, my great-grandfather, Paul Albert Hand. We called him Grandpa or just Gramps. He was born May 25, 1908 and passed on December 14, 1999. He had wanted to live to the new millennium but didn't make that wish. He had been married to my great-grandmother for 71 years when he died. She only lived 3 years without him, passing around 4 a.m. on December 15, 2002.
I always looked up to my great-grandfather, and not just because he was so tall. He was the most respected man I have ever known. At his funeral a close friend of his said there was never an unkind word said about him his entire life. He lived by very high morals, saved as much money as he could, and took care of his family and everyone he knew in any way possible. He also was fantastic at brushing and braiding little girls' hair whenever we were lucky enough to spend the night. He taught me how to play cards, play checkers, and tried to teach me how to save money.
Gramps was also quite the joker. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He had one of those packages of gum with just one stick left in it, and when you pull it out it snaps your finger. We got lots of laughs out of that. I also remember several occasions where he'd ask us if we wanted some pie. When I'd say "what kind is it?" he'd say something like "I don't have any; I just wanted to know if you wanted some." And then of course we'd laugh some more.
I interviewed him once for a project I had to do in elementary school. I kept a green notebook where I wrote down all the stories he had told me. I don't know what happened to that notebook, but I desperately wish I still had it. Growing up I always thought I would write a book about him someday. Even if I was the only person that ever read it, I would read it over and over again. I can hardly even remember the details of his childhood now, but I will always have the memories and stories of him from mine.
He loved road trips. We would get in the car and just drive places. I don't know if he had the destination in mind all along but it just seemed so adventurous to a little girl. We went all over the state with them, visiting Metamora, Napanee, Shipshewana, Madison, Whitestown, etc. He always found these great places. Visiting them in Florida was also always something to look forward too.
Eleven years later I still think of him often. This time of year it is pretty easy to notice when family members are no longer around. I will never forget him. Rest in peace, Gramps. I love you!