Kindness, how we treat each other are what matters
Even from afar, columnist Loren Else learned that from his grandparents.
Growing up, I only had one set of grandparents. I didn’t get to see them very often or even talk to them much. Back in the day of long-distance phone calls being charged by the minute, there was no time for us kids to tell our grandparents about a ballgame or what was going on in our lives.
Although I got to live with my grandparents for one year when I was 10, I feel like I missed a great deal not having them in my life much after that.
As I got older, when our family did get to visit them, it was terrific. We might sit around on a hot summer evening eating ice-cold watermelon or homemade ice cream.
Communication was the occasional letter. As a teenage boy, I was never too good in this department. My grandparents did not attend my athletic events, high school or college graduation, or my wedding because the distance for them to travel was too far.
A couple of years after I got married, I went to see them. I have one picture with them holding my baby daughter in 1979. I knew that photo one day would be significant to me.
My grandparents did not tell me many tales about growing up. My grandpa worked in Canada for 10 years, was a farmer, truck driver, lime hauler, and school bus driver. My grandma was a Normal School graduate in Saskatchewan, Canada, and a school teacher before they got married in 1921.
What I remember very clearly about them was their devotion to each other. The kind and loving way they treated one another had an impact on me.
I wonder if, in their later years, they ever reflected on their journey. They didn’t have much, but that never affected how they treated each other.
Did they wish they would have done anything differently? When my grandfather died in 1982, Grandma’s purpose in life was gone. She wanted to join her husband, and it wasn’t long before she did.
My wife and I recently had some conversations about what we could have done differently in our married life. I initiated these questions recently at a couple of dinner conversations. We recently slipped out of town for a couple of days to quietly celebrate 46 years together.
I was a small-town boy who attended a junior college. She was a city girl who attended Gustavus Adolphus College. I was a sports guy, and she loved books. She was a thinker, astute and beautiful, and I was … a guy. How in the world did all that work?
She said we should have done more with the kids — more vacations together, more travel. My wife said we should have put more responsibility on our kids and taught them more life skills. I agreed, and I also wished I kept my 1976 Ford Ranger XLT. Hey, I’m a guy.
We couldn’t help but reflect on our wedding – we had secured a honeymoon special at the Northernaire Motel and Restaurant in Maplewood, Minn. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than $40, and it included a bottle of champagne.
I believe the Northernaire Motel is still operating. The 32 ultra-modern units it advertised in 1975 must have been updated a few times.
This past weekend at breakfast, before we headed home, we had a remarkable, kind server named Ellyn. She seemed to know everyone in the place and would greet arriving customers with a “welcome back.”
We told Ellyn it was our anniversary. Soon, with a big smile from Ellyn, a delightful dark chocolate crème brulee dessert arrived at our table to accompany our oatmeal.
A key in life is kindness and how we treat each other. It was modeled to me early in my life.
It’s a fine way to be remembered.
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at firstname.lastname@example.org .