finding good in bad

Funerals—especially ones that involve flying across the country and back in a span of less than 72 hours—aren’t usually much fun. My grandfather’s was no exception. There were tears and formalities. Grandpa Joe was a Korean War vet. A United States flag laying atop his casket was folded and handed to my nana. She was sobbing.

I was crying, too.

A bugler played Taps. Outside, it began to pour.

So it goes.

But good things can come out of not-so-fun situations, too. Like the tales of Grandpa Joe’s lighter side that we heard from some of his tow-truck buddies after the service. Also, the letters I discovered later that night at my nana’s house. Apparently, my grandpa was quite the jokester.

Take, for example, the way he addressed this birthday card to my nana:


To: Mrs. Doris L. Wilson
Any place she is at
On her day


From: The one that loves her
But don’t understand her
And lives at the same place
Where the card came from

There was a Fathers’ Day card, too, from my nana to my Grandpa Joe. In it, she had scratched out text and replaced it with some of her own:

For my Hubby

A Fathers’ Day note about the finer things of life:

I can do without sports cars cranes

and fancy clothes tow trucks,

original sculptures tow motors,

and opening-night shows drivers’ dispatchers,

I don’t need ritzy clubs flat trucks,

antiques pickups,

mansions junk cars,

or yachts affidavits.

There’s just one thing I need, and I need lots of it—

You (and your love!)

Happy Father’s Day,


It’s not surprising, honestly, that such silliness could come from or be married to a face like this:

Grandpa Joe

Grandpa Joe in the 8th grade

It was also good to see Grandpa Joe’s old stomping grounds.


The old tow yard.


Shed where Grandpa Joe used to like to play tricks.

photo 4

Tow yard with scrap cars.


One of Grandpa Joe’s trucks.

And to see pictures like this one of my grandpa in action:


Grandpa Joe working on his crane.

So, you see, good things can come from bad situations. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how you’re looking for it. Will you focus on the negative, or will you seek the possible good angles of rotten situations, too? Grandpa Joe may never come back, but his memory will live on with those who loved him for forever.

We love you, Grandpa Joe!

P.S. A big thank you to my brother, Derek, for playing photographer with his iPhone for me on this trip. I forgot my camera!

For an interesting history lesson on the origin of Taps, check out this video. Pretty cool!

the end of an era

My grandfather died today. Grandpa Joe.

A gruff blue collar man, Grandpa Joe knew little beyond his tow yard in Akron, Ohio. That’s where he was comfortable, see. That was his empire.

He came to California once, before I was born. That was for my parents’ wedding. Since then, we’ve visited him. California is a l-o-n-g way from Ohio.

During their marriage, my nana and he were often at odds. They yelled and bickered; Grandpa Joe threw things once in a while. They spent much of their time annoyed with each other—that is, until these last few years. With both of their health on the decline, and his on a slipperier slope, they began to depend on one another. I talked to my nana last week; her voice was soft and sweet. “Joe’s been eatin’ real good . . .”

Their 60th anniversary would have been on the 9th.

Nana and Grandpa Joe at their family reunion last summer

Nana and Grandpa Joe at their family reunion last summer

And it’s left me so, so sad. No, not for my own loss. While I would have loved to have known my grandfather better, the storytelling-grandpa stereotype just wasn’t him. And that’s okay. Rather, I’m sad for my nana, and for my mom. Like her mother, my mom’s relationship with her father had begun to improve over the last few years. Out here in California, she didn’t get to say goodbye.

But it’s more than that, too. I’m sad for the loss of companionship and the lonely nights ahead. I’m sad for the end of an era without a start anew. I’m sad for the way time passes, and how life changes. Sometimes it changes for the better, and some things improve with age. But I’ve never heard anyone say it’s easy to get old.

Have you?

P.S. I love you, Grandpa Joe! I’ll see you again someday soon. :)