The Last Goodbye

I lost my grandpa this weekend. It’s the first grandparent I’ve ever lost. Not many people are lucky enough to say that at 24. The family will say our final goodbyes to PawPaw over the next two days. I don’t think I’ve come to grips with it yet, to be quite frank. I don’t think the thought of him truly being gone has wrapped around my head yet. It will over these next two days, and it will be hard, but I am at peace knowing he is no longer in pain and while his time on earth is done, his eternal life has just begun.

I’ve been thinking about writing this a lot over the last few days. I’ve had some reservations. No amount of words can encapsulate the life William Odell Robb lived, and I was only here for 24 of those 81 years. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share some stories. Writing is not something a lot of people like doing. But matters such as this are why I love it. This is therapy. This is where I can look at a blank screen, fill it with words and let things out, whether it ends up resonating with people or not. I don’t know where this will take me. I jotted down some topics I wanted to cover, but this is mostly off-the-top thoughts. I hope I can use this space to serve as a deserved tribute.

PawPaw had a crazy work ethic
I like to think I have a good work ethic. I attribute a lot of that to my dad. But I would be remiss to not give some credit to PawPaw. I didn’t have a traditional babysitter as a kid. I had Nana and PawPaw. Every morning he would go out at the crack of dawn and care for the farm. He would come in for lunch, then go back out before he wrapped up in time for the 5 o’clock news. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate all that he continued to do in his post-retirement life. He worked harder post-retirement than a lot of people I know with years left in the workforce.

I also admire how he found a perfect balance. He basically worked on the farm from sun-up to sun-down, but it was very laid back from that point until bedtime. In my job, I struggle finding ways to ‘turn off’. I continue working even when I’m off the clock. While I’m sure it was learned over time, he did it perfectly. He worked his ass off during the day then relaxed at night. He earned it. I hope to one day be able to find that balance.

I got my first “job” on the farm
As I got older and figured out how to get in trouble with the parents more, I needed some sort of discipline. We found that by “throwing wood on the pile”. My grandparents got heat through a wooden furnace. Obviously, summers were spent stocking up wood trailers from the amish and chucking them on the wood pile. Once a week, give or take, I would unload the trailer onto the woodpile. I was paid for my efforts. I didn’t deserve to be, but it was an added incentive for a spoiled ass 12-year-old that probably thought he was too good for free labor.

He was always lenient. Nana would call me out if there was ever a full wood trailer and I was inside doing something else, as she should’ve. She’d sometimes get after me if I took a long “soda break”, as she should’ve. PawPaw would always say, “No Sherry Lou. He gets paid by the job, not by the hour”. He had a lot more patience than I would have. Some days he would even finish the wood trailer for me and I would still undeservedly get paid, despite my lack of effort.

He made a town boy love tractors and the farm life
I lived in town for the first 14 years of my life. Despite going to the grandparents farm almost every day, I was about as far from a ‘country boy’ as one could get. I never hunted, I never fed the cows, I never hauled hay and I was terrified of the coonhounds. But PawPaw sure had a way of making me love the tractors. There were three notable tractors: the Big Red Tractor, Big Green Tractor and Old Green Tractor. As you can tell, I was very innovative with names at four years old.

The Big Green Tractor was my favorite. I would frequently ‘drive’ it with PawPaw. One day, in an open field, he let go of the steering wheel. I was driving the Big Green Tractor all by myself. It was one of the happiest days of my childhood; something as simple as that.

He would rake hay with the Old Green Tractor and bale it with the Big Red Tractor. I didn’t have a clue how he did it, but I sure as hell liked watching him. Nana and I would spend entire afternoons doing nothing but watching him rake or bale hay. The simple things that can mesmerize a little kid.

If you made him mad, you screwed up
This blurb will be short but it’s something I will always remember. I could not tell you the amount of times I have worn Nana slick, whether it be with my little brother or, God forbid, all the little cousins together. We all drove her absolutely insane and I 100% would not have handled it with as much grace as she did. PawPaw had an immense of patience. There would be occasions where we’d be wild enough that it would get him to yell. If that happened, you just shut the hell up. You screwed up.

He truly never met a stranger
I think this is pretty common among grandfathers, but it was absolutely the truth with PawPaw. If you were in his vicinity, he could strike up a conversation with you. I’m a journalist and it is literally my job to talk to people, and I still can’t do it half as good as he could. He just had that trait that I would love to figure out some day.

I remember many Walmart grocery trips. If PawPaw said he was going to go sit on the bench and wait for Nana and I, we had to hurry. A 20 minute trip turned into a 45 minute trip if he got to talking to somebody. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s next to impossible to dislike him. If he ever made an enemy, I’d like to meet them, and I’d like to ask what is wrong with them.

Those damn St Louis Cardinals
Being a St Louis Cardinals fan runs in the family, but he took it to a new level. He would work days around the Cardinals schedule. It didn’t matter if they were playing awful or they were playing great, he wanted to watch them. I’ll miss watching Cardinals games with him. I’ll miss ranting about how bad John Mozeliak is.

Aside from the Cardinals, I’ll always remember him as a big Mizzou fan. Many Mizzou games were watched with him over the years. The night of his death, Mizzou basketball picked up a road win over No. 6 Tennessee; easily one of the team’s best wins in years. I thought that was fitting.

He was my biggest fan
This might be the quality I’ll miss the most. I didn’t have a supporter as avid as PawPaw was. From playing peewee ball to my last wrestling match, from my first radio broadcast to the last he ever heard, he wanted to be there for it all. “Austin Ward will have the call” became his favorite thing to hear. Falling into the trap of feeling like you work a thankless job can happen often, but I never felt that with him around. Supporters can sometimes be few and far between, and I will certainly feel a void without him.

This has taught me what really matters
Without going into details, a lot has happened in my personal life over the last year. I’ve been down at many times over the last year. All this has helped me changed my perspective, though.

Personal matters are eventually resolved over time. Family is forever. Friends are, hopefully, forever. The amount of family members I have seen consistently throughout this whole process is incredible. To put it simply, my family comes second to none. I am forever grateful to have a family that is as close-knit as it is.

I have never had a big circle, but I know I can truly rely on the people that are in my small circle. Getting older and wiser helps you realize that friendships are really about quality over quantity. There’s no debating that the quantity isn’t there, but the quality I have in my small group of friends is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

These words took a bit of time to craft. I laughed. I cried. I smiled. There’s just a certain feeling that comes with putting words on a screen. It’s a feeling that only some weirdos like me can feel. Like I said in the intro, it’s like therapy.

If you’ve read to this point, thank you. If you knew my grandpa, I hope this took you down memory lane and you remember how great of a life he lived. If you never knew my grandpa, I hope my words gave you a glimpse into who he was. He will truly be missed and he will never be replaced. He’s in better hands now. He was born into the eternal life and we’ll all see each other again one day. I am so blessed to have had him in my life.

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