Grandpa Don

He wasn’t really my grandpa.

In fact, I didn’t even meet him

until my first week of 3rd grade when he walked through the door to his daughter-in-law, my teacher’s, classroom.

He was quiet.

And he would sit in the classroom while we learned and grade papers or help Mrs. D with projects.

But when recess came or we had a break


He was there.

It was as if he couldn’t wait to love us. He’d walk with us at recess, tell us stories, jokes, make us laugh. Sometimes he’d even eat lunch with us.

Names had to be put into a hat to be drawn because we’d fight over who got to sit by our beloved Grandpa Don.

Somewhere in those first weeks, we connected.

We were friends…this third grade girl, this mid-60’s man.

Soon, he began stopping over once in awhile on a Saturday. He’d bring lawn darts and chocolate ice cream, and sometimes my parents would come out to talk to him, too. He never asked to come in; he was content to sit on our front porch and talk.

I’d look forward to his visits, waking up on Saturday mornings and wondering if this might be a Grandpa-Don-comes-to-visit day.

A couple times he took me fishing and when we didn’t catch anything, we’d go to Taco John’s instead to have potato oles and chat.

I can’t tell you much about the conversations that we had.

But I can tell you that his friendship meant so much to me.

Over the years I’ve wondered why I was the one who

was special to him.

I never asked him but have often thought that maybe every child was special, and he had the gift of making us each feel that way.

I’d see Grandpa Don here and there after third grade, but once I moved on to middle school, I rarely saw him.

When I did, he’d always greet me with a monstrous bear hug. Really, he squeezed so tightly that it hurt.

But none of us ever cared…some things are worth pain.

Grandpa Don died during my sophomore year after a long illness.

I remember the day I found out he was gone and the ache that filled my heart…the same one I feel today as I reflect on this friend who knew how to love so well.

And who taught me so much about love.

I also remember the day that I went to the cemetery

to look for his grave stone and feeling disappointed when I saw how small and simple it was.

To me, the size of his grave stone should have matched the size of his heart.

But then I thought about it.

How, often, the simplest things in life like friendship are the things that end up meaning so much to us. And how, though he was full of love for everyone, he really was a simple guy.

To him, living was loving.

About ten years ago, just before I graduated from college, I went back to Mrs. D’s classroom to visit her, and we started talking about Grandpa Don.

I’ll never forget what she said to me.

You were always so special to him. Just like one of his grandkids.

That made my heart happy and reminded me that friendship and love come in many ways…and often when we least expect them.

I still think about him.

I still miss him.

But I can also still feel those bear hugs.

Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus challenged her readers to write about a person from their past who had a profound influence on their lives. Hop on over to her blog to read more stories.



  1. Thank you so much for sharing Grandpa Don. You blessed him as much as he blessed you; I feel sure.

  2. Mel, This is rich.

    I want to be this to people: a person who lives life as if I “couldn’t wait to love on” others. I want to be known for that. What a legacy.

    (On another note here: What a lovely and soothing writing voice you have.)

  3. How wonderful to have a trusted father figure in your life who thought so highly of you–and how sad that his gravestone was so small, when his heart was so big. I’m so glad you joined Jennifer’s invitation to join The High Calling’s Community Writing project!

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