This week is the week when grandparents are invited to have lunch with their grandchild at the Sibley East Elementary. My children will have to settle for lunch with me because their grandparents live so far away.
Ironically, as I play substitute grandparent, my grandfather is very ill. So, pardon me while I wax nostalgic.
His name is Anthony John Michalski, but we call him Grandpa Michalski. He is half Polish and half Irish, but not Catholic—go figure! He and Grandma Michalski live in St. Cloud, though he grew up in St. Paul.
Grandpa, like so many of his generation, was drafted into WWII. He served at the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. He didn’t like to talk about the war.
After the war, he worked as an art teacher for the public schools in St. Cloud. He eventually became the art curriculum director for the entire district. When my uncle’s kindergarten teacher insisted that children arriving early to school bring a coloring book to keep them occupied, my grandpa insisted my uncle bring a tablet. He wanted children to draw their own pictures, not just color between the lines.
Grandpa is an intelligent man. He is a reader, a thinker, a philosopher, an artist—at least he was. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia. This man who read the newspaper daily and completed the crossword puzzle can no longer remember his own children.
Photography was a hobby of his for many years. He had a pottery wheel in his house and kiln in his backyard. Each of my siblings and I has at least one cup he made.
He didn’t waste. He recycled before it was trendy. He tread softly. He was tall, but gentle with his grandchildren—maybe not so much with his six children.
He was fun. He told jokes and had interesting things, like those puzzles made from bent nails, and a venus fly trap. (It was a little freaky to watch him feed it raw meat.) He drank Postum or tea, not coffee. He played chess through the mail.
I cherish these memories of Grandpa, especially since he can’t. This man who was so creative and smart, who loved to learn and share, has a body that outlived his brain.
Writer’s note: Grandpa Michalski died a few hours before we went to press.