One hundred ten years ago today the baby boy who would become the best grandpa in the world was born. He lived in poverty in a foreign country and served in the army twice when he was only sixteen years old. (One of those periods of service was during his country's civil war.) When Grandpa was twenty-two years old, he emigrated to America. Since Grandpa knew no English at this time, he was incredibly brave.
While Grandpa was in the army, he started smoking, probably to look more "grown-up" in the company of soldiers. Fifty-four years later Grandpa died, after a decade of poor health, from medical problems caused by his two-pack-a-day habit.
Before Grandpa's health started to fail, he and Grandma took me for wonderful weekends at their tiny cottage and made sure this greedy little five-year-old was always provided with four pieces of bacon at breakfast. Each summer at the cottage Grandpa would make me a swing out of rope and a board. I always thought that it was so impressive to have a swing that was not part of swing sets made of the metal tubes like the ones at stores.
Grandpa and Grandma would also take me "swimming" in the nearby lake when the weather was good. And, if it didn't rain, Grandpa would take me on a long walk while Grandma prepared one of her delicious breakfasts. (I did mention the four pieces of bacon; didn't I?) Grandpa liked to tease and would always introduce me as his old-maid granddaughter just to listen to my protests of being too young to be an old maid. (The woman's movement hadn't begun yet.)
When Grandpa's health started to fail, he and Grandma sold their cottage and moved the magical times to their tiny four-room bungalow in Chicago. Since Grandpa had to take it easy on account of his heart, he taught his three grandchildren how to play cribbage. (In fact, my little brother learned to count by playing cribbage.) We loved playing with grandpa and always disagreed over which one of us would get to play a game with Grandpa first.
Grandpa and Grandma gave me the greatest gift that any grandparent can give--time. I hate tobacco products and not just because they give me asthma attacks.
When Grandpa started smoking, the consequences were not known. Cigarettes ruined Grandpa's health and made his short retirement much harder than it should have been. Grandpa should have been at my wedding and lived long enough to meet some of his great-grandchildren. Cigarettes killed the best grandpa in the world and stole precious time with him from us. I still miss him very much.