I wanted to add another tribute to a man that I left things unsaid to. I wrote this for memorial day, but would like to share it again.
I love this picture. It makes me cry. It makes me smile.
I think it was taken the weekend of my graduation. My older brother took it. Isn't it great? Grandma and Grandpa Schaller were sitting on the swing in my parent's back yard. The lighting is right, the picture is in focus, but the best part is the expression on their faces. Stacey captured them completely. These are their true smiles. I miss them.
My earliest memories of Grandpa were riding with him in the truck. I LOVED going with Grandpa when he went to Sioux City, IA for feed! I went so often that by the time I was 5 I could have told you the way! There was this little tiny shop, and every time I went with him, he would stop at this little "hole-in-the-wall" and buy me a Sioux City Sarsaparilla. You haven't lived until you have had one of their cream soda's!
He was always so broad and lean. He was in his late 60's but stronger than most men in their 20's. I remember him lifting two feed bags, one in each hand, both 50lbs, over his head. My Dad commented that, not only did he have to have the strength to lift them, but he also had to balance them as they rose! He could have beat any young man in the county in strength and agility. I was SO in awe of him! And he was so loving to me. He very rarely spoke harshly to me, but when he did, I KNEW I had it coming! Even in those moments, his reprimands were peppered with and obviously motivated in love. He was also so smart! Daddy said that he could add columns of numbers in his head faster than you could put them in a calculator.
Once when I was a pre-teen, we were there one weekend to visit, and Grandpa taught the adult Sunday School class at church. Teens were in the adult class that day. He asked a question, and I raised my hand. No one else did. So, to my surprise, Grandpa called on me! I answered right, and he seemed SO pleased! I was happy to please him!
There was never a time when we were not welcome in his lap. Even as teenagers we were still little girls to him. There was never a time that he ever pushed us away, or didn't want us around. Even when he and Daddy worked on the farm they didn't push me away. They would put me someplace safe and I got to watch! I will cherish always the things I learned from watching! Those things have served me well.
Grandpa had the biggest hands you have ever seen in your life! When his ring was sized for their 50th wedding anniversary I believe it was a size 22. I could fit all five fingers up to the second knuckle in that ring! But always soft as a baby's bottom. He was, what they called in those days a "prize fighter." It still amazes me that hands that could render such a terrible blow were so gentle and soft. That was something like him. Gentle, but dangerous when he needed to be: when granddaughters needed protection, when his grandsons needed chastising, and when his country was threatened.
My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and I was always so proud of that. He very rarely talked about the war, but he did once when I was a teenager. He talked about liberating a prison camp. He told, with tears in his eyes, about the horrible smell that stuck in your nostrils for days. He talked about walking past a stack of bodies, and seeing someone blink. They were still alive, but he couldn't find them, so far gone they could not have lived, and to weak to even blink again. He told about seeing a brothel, and his voice choked as he looked at me and said, "About the same age as you..." And then went on to tell about the enamel room in the basement, where they took the ones who "acted up", or were pregnant, to kill them. And the entire wall was filled with bullet holes. The tears ran freely as he talked about how he did what he did so that we would not have to endure that in America. These are the things that stick in my mind about my grandfather. His legacy of service has now transcended three generations of Schaller men.
After the war, Grandpa was in a serious tractor accident and was nearly crippled. He was unable to walk for quite some time, and so Grandma and my aunts got jobs, and Grandpa put a little harness on my father, 3 or 4 at the time, and turned the ENTIRE yard to a garden for food. Every day he would crawl outside and work his way through the rows, weeding and tending. It must have been hard. He loved to work. I loved that about him! He loved to work. He had a job, tossing feed bags, well into his 70's. He just did not want to be idle.
But what I am grateful the most for is the kind of father he raised. I have an amazing Daddy (more on Father's Day), and I know that the kind of man Grandpa was created a legacy of faith, leadership and unconditional love. My Daddy is also a veteran.
So on this memorial day, I am remembering my Grandpa Schaller. I miss you, Grandpa. And I am thanking my Daddy. Daddy, I am so proud of your service, and so grateful to God that you are MY Dad. And I am thanking my little brother (who is a good FOOT taller than me), your service has just begun, but I am so proud of what you are doing. And I am thanking God for the amazing men He has brought into my life.