My grandfather, Frank, celebrates his 90th birthday today. I wish I could be there to give him a big birthday hug. It's a long trek to where he lives at the base of the Sierra Nevadas and it's been many years since I've seen him there in his high-desert element.
Growing up in California, my family visited nearly every summer. My brothers and I found endless enjoyment in the opportunities to explore nature, collect rocks, get into trouble with red ants and bumblebees, and splash in the above-ground pool until our fingers looked like shriveled prunes. Memories of my grandfather are indelibly linked to the wide-open space of the desert home he shared with my grandmother.
A quiet man he was, often reading the labels on the ketchup and mustard bottles during our alfresco barbecue dinners, while the conversation of three energetic children swirled around him. He was always the last to finish his meal because he chewed his food so thoroughly. Perhaps the secret to his longevity?
My grandfather was good with babies and little kids. He always wrote me the nicest birthday cards with sweet messages neatly printed in black ink with his signature style (which, as a child was much easier to read than my grandmother's elegant cursive). He played the ukulele and told great stories about growing up in Hawaii. The photos of his life will tell you that he loved camping and fishing and owned an awesome airstream trailer. They will also tell you that he was a good, kind man.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I hope I'm living as well as you are, should I reach 90 one day.