I lost one of my last two living grandparents yesterday. And I’ve made a habit when that happens of taking a moment to write down the main memories I have of each as a sort of tribute to them. It’s been lovely to read what my cousins and siblings have been saying on Facebook, though I’ll admit I don’t have quite the same connection, as Grandpa Coltrin didn’t enter my life until I was 8 or so, but he once that happened, he would periodically pop up, usually as he came to stay with us for weeks at a time, often in the summers. (At least, that’s how I remember it. Now that I’m trying to pin down dates, I find my memories are fairly fuzzy of specifics.) That said, here are the experiences that stand out most to me:
- He and my brother Joel got in an epic “double or nothing” betting match over table tennis one summer out on the back porch at our house in New Jersey. They’d started with a simple dollar bet that Grandpa Coltrin could beat Joel in a match. Joel lost, and he demanded to have a rematch at double or nothing odds. Grandpa Coltrin kept agreeing to the deal, and I have no idea how much Joel ended up owing, but it was an awful lot. Joel was quite upset. I don’t know if he learned anything from it, but I certainly was persuaded that gambling is a bad idea.
- Grandpa loved to sit up in the guest house and watch television. Often Spanish soap operas, as I recall. But the TV up there didn’t have a channel changer, and he didn’t like having to get up to change the channel. So he took two broom handles and tied them together and used that to be able to reach the television buttons. Simple. Free. Elegant. 🙂
- He liked to challenge me to get in better shape. I think it’s somehow fitting that the post I wrote the day he died was about how I finally am in better shape. I remember him encouraging me to run and to do leg lifts and just be more physical. If I’d followed his advice way back when, I’d probably be a lot better off for it. Sigh.
- Around me at least, he always seemed to be in a perpetually good mood. I don’t ever remember seeing him irritated or angry. Certainly not later in life. He had a great way of just taking whatever the present gave him and accepting it. Making the best out of it that he could and if there wasn’t a way to make the best out of it, he’d just move on. It’s a mind set I would like to be able to master, but I think I’m decades away of being able to really do it.
- We went out to visit him at his farm once or twice, but my memories of the trips aren’t super clear. I remember going to a convenience store for treats(?), and I remember dogs, and I remember learning about irrigation. None of it stuck too clearly with me, however. I wish they were crisper. Wishing doesn’t change things, though.
- Later in life, I’d always get updates about him in passing, and they always seemed to be a series of grand adventures. He was off in China exploring with his sons. He’s gone up to Yellowstone or over to California. I literally never knew when he might show up when I was in Utah. I’d run into him at a family dinner or a trip to the city. I was amazed at how active and vibrant he was, even well into his 90s. It seemed like the man had just stopped aging and was just living the dream. He’d have a few run ins with medical issues, but he always seemed to bounce back. I didn’t even know he was sick until I got word he’d passed away.
My thoughts and prayers are with all the people he touched over his life. There’s a lot of wonderful things to look back on, remember, and celebrate. He will be missed.