I never knew my dad’s parents- they both passed away before I was born. I only know the stories that my aunts and cousins tell of them. But, I did get to know my mom’s parents incredibly well. Grandma stayed home to take care of my brother and I until we were old enough to stay home alone. She came to every band concert, every football game, and almost every other important event in my life, right up until I graduated high school. She was at my wedding, and she was even there in the delivery room on the night I became a mommy. She’s still here. Teaching us about love, hard work, and having your own inner strength.
You see, she just passed her 9-year anniversary of being a widow. We lost my grandpa on March 10th, 2010- seven days before Christopher was born. So, so much has happened in the 9 years Grandpa has been gone- I’ve had 3 boys, finished college, started a business, Mom and Dad have both retired, my brother has finished school and started a career as an EMT/Firefighter, Justin and I have bought a house, two cars, and are now celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s all been a wonderful adventure, but when I slow down, I can’t help but wonder, would Grandpa be proud of me? Of all of us?
Grandpa- Keith Hesler- was an incredible man. He was kind, hard-working, and even though he didn’t seem to think of himself that way, he was smart. Born in 1931, he grew up during the Dust Bowl in Southeastern Kansas, on a small family farm (on a side note, we still own some of the land!). He was the eldest of three siblings, helping to raise his younger brother and sister. He was 7 and 10 years their senior. Grandpa never graduated high school, claiming his teachers told him he was too dumb to get any more than a 10th grade education. But, that never stopped him. He became a farmer, a carpenter, a school bus driver, a heavy equipment operator, an electrician, and dabbled in auto mechanics. He even got hit by lightning once!
He married my grandmother on December 5, 1952; he was 21, and she was 20. Together, they had 3 children, though only my mom survives. Their first was a tragic miscarriage, and their second- a son named Clifford- passed away at the age of 4 in a terrible accident. Shortly thereafter, they moved from Southeastern Kansas to Albuquerque, where- despite moving for long-term work assignments- they would remain for the majority of their years together.
This hard-working man who came from almost nothing, built a life, a family, and a home with my grandmother for all of us practically from scratch. It’s no wonder that I would question whether or not he’s proud of the work I’ve done and the accomplishments I’ve earned. But, I think he would be, because, like him, I work to take care of my family, and to him, that was always the most important thing.