Among the many blessings I am gifted to have in my life, I feel most grateful to have so many of my grandparents still alive. Of course, I can count every person in my relations as a gift, but with time being the great slayer of all people, it is a unique blessing to have so many of my predecessors still breathing, little loan within easy driving distance.
Within a four block radius of my childhood home there are four generations of my family. Expand that to a half hour radius and there is suddenly almost a hundred people I share blood with, including 4 grandparents, and 4 great-grandparents. Before early Saturday morning, it was 5 great-grandparents. My great-grandfather John Zwingelberg was 85 when he passed away, but he led a good and full life.
Though I know some stories of his childhood, time in the Korean War, and the rest of his life, but I don’t feel I can properly explain who he was. He was a very special person to all of us, and a remarkable person in any life that was graced enough to have him enter. So I’d just like to share a few stories where I was blessed enough to be featured alongside the old goat.
The first one I don’t remember, but it’s a story my mother told me that warms my heart to hear. Anyone who has met me knows that I really, really like ice cream. I wasn’t employed five years at Dairy Queen for laughs. A teacher once told me that it is a stereotype of Lutherans to share food, and Grandpa Z was a Lutheran if ever there was one. When i was little, I would share ice cream cones and Dilly Bars with my mom. I was small, but I’ve always had a good appetite so I would often eat the lion’s share. And then one time my grandfather thought it was ridiculous tbat a three-year-old of my size would be sharing ice cream and bought me my own. I don’t even remember that, but it is just such a typical thing of my grandpa, a slightly ridiculous claim resolved with generous amounts of food.
Come to think of it, a lot of my memories concerning him are related to food. I could almost have a seperate blog dedicated to memories of breaking bread with my family. But another great memory I have with him was the first time I saw a PG-13 movie in a theater. My parents were quite strict with me about what I was allowed to watch growing up. The only PG-13 movies I could watch before I was 13 were the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Except the time great-grandpa took me to see Quantum of Solace. To this day I love the Bond franchise, and would gladly argue that Daniel Craig is one of the best. There’s so much about what I like in movies in there. The glamour, the traditions, the music, the popcorn. Okay, I really do associate family with food, but I don’t see that as all that bad of a thing.
The last story I want to tell was something that happened completely out of the blue. As a child, I rally liked rocks and dinosaurs. Okay, I still really like rocks and dinosaurs, but at the time I saw myself as being a paleontologist. So, one random summer day he showed up and took me for my first visit to the School of Mines geology museum. My grandpa was certainly a very intelligent man, but I know he’s not the type to spend a day looking at mineral samples. He did that just to make his great-grandson, one of so many descendants happy for a day. Sure, geology didn’t pan out for me, but that is such a meaningful gesture.
In the Zwingelberg clan, we essentially have a family reunion every Sunday. Since so many of us still live in and around Whitewood, we go to church, go to grandma and grandpa’s house, and then Taco John’s. Every week for as long as I can remember. In my age cohort we have jokes about grandpa coming to yell at us to quiet down upstairs. Partially because we usually warranted being yelled at to quiet down.
We all like to make loving jests at it, but he was the kind of person that was born to be a lovably-grumpy old man. Even when he’d put on a show about being grumpy, or worse, making us choke down lutafisk everyone always knew he would do absolutely anything for any of us. Well, except acknowledge that he wasn’t of pure German heritage. He had to draw his line somewhere.
Though I am blessed with a large family, this is the second time I have lost a great-grandfather in a year and a half. It’s just a reminder that I will have a lot of people lost through my life. For now, I am more than satisfied to enjoy the love of the wonderful people in my life. Sure, we have our problems, but I couldn’t have been born into a better set of families.