Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spare Change

On June 30, 2010, my grandpa, Joe Kremer, passed away. He fought a long fight, battling kidney failure. While I've meant to blog about him, his life and his passing - I hope I'll get to that. This post is different.

Yesterday, my cousin Valerie and I went to Grandma's to help her sort through Grandpa's clothes. Before I got there, she mentioned to Val that she wasn't ready to get rid of things, quite yet. So, we just helped her look through the clothes in Grandpa's closet and decide what to give/let the grandsons/son/sons-in-law have...and organize things.

My Grandma is a perpetual saver. As Val put it, yesterday we may have found someone who had just as hard of a time throwing away things as Grandma: Grandpa. In his top drawer, we found artifacts from the last century. Alongside about 50 white handkerchief were prayers for meetings/meals he'd been asked to bless; funeral programs from those near to him, including my great-great grandfather (and "namesake") Jesse O'Neel; old pictures; a get-well note that my aunt Barbara wrote him, and much more. We found dozens of old campaign buttons from the last 40 years: Reagan, Dole, Grassley for CONGRESS, Brandstad for Lieutenant Governor - and Grandpa's button for the Iowa Presidential Caucus as a Reagan supporter. It was incredible! Did you know that candidates used to promote their campaign with plastic combs and nail files? I didn't! I'm really thinking that these items need to be donated to the State Historical Society...and also thinking about putting all of Grandpa's political memorabilia and notes that he's written together. "A Snapshot of a Public Servant"...

Cleaning out Grandpa's drawers was a history lesson. He saved a silver dollar from 1921 - his year of birth. He collected many old coins. Did you know Dwight Eisenhower was on the silver dollar? Ben Franklin used to be on the fifty-cent piece! Speaking of the fifty-cent piece, Grandpa saved a fifty-cent piece with Kennedy dated 1964 - the first year it was issued! These coins may not be worth anything (more than their value) monetarily. But they were significant to Grandpa. You kept things like that because it was significant to your life.

Grandpa's drawer and dresser-top had a lot of spare change (not historically significant coins). We collected it and put in Grandpa's spare change container. After sorting through items, organizing, and cleaning, I found Grandpa's wallet on the dresser. I saw it, and said to Grandma, "Do you want me to put this in the drawer?" She said, "Nooo. I like it there. I like to think..." I said, "That he might be coming home to get it?" She smiled, "Yeah."

Today, I was cleaning some spare change off of my desk. Doing this made me think about Grandpa's dresser. How many years has it been since Grandpa walked in and emptied his pockets? Probably two-three? Yet, there was the change.

Then, I realized that, unwittingly, by clearing off the dresser, we were reminding Grandma that he's not coming home. Maybe what we're doing is helping her grasp "the present reality"...and I can see the good in that, but I also know we can't force it. She loved Grandpa with such depth, such faithfulness, such loving constancy. To understand the depth of love, you need to know her. I have been blessed just by knowing them and witnessing her devotion. The day Grandpa died, my heart broke watching her say good-bye to the only man she ever loved. May God bless her and hold her close.