To one of the most important men in my life…

I finally figured it out, what has been bothering me the last few days.  I’ve been really stressed and feeling overwhelmed – more so than I should be.  Sure I’m in the middle of planning the Green Party’s AGM, and I’m working on a number of other projects too…  but nothing that should have been causing the feeling of being crushed under too much that I was experiencing.

Last night I was running everything through my head, doing a bit of a check list.  What I had accomplished, what I still needed to accomplish, what I could work on the next day…  That’s when it hit me.  The overwhelmed feeling is about my Grampa’s birthday.

Okay, okay…  I know.  That’s a little odd.  But let me give you a little back story.

My mom was still a girl, just a teen, when she had me.  And I’ve always been so grateful for everything she sacrificed for me.  She was a single, teen, mom…  just being ONE of those things can be tough, but she was all three.   Because of this, my Grampa was the man in my life when I was really young.  Almost all of my earliest memories center around time with him, or at his house.  Even after Mom met Dad, and the three of us became a family, Grampa remained an ever steady, ever present part of my life.

Grampa took me camping, a lot.  He instilled in me a love and respect for nature.  An awe at the miracles that surround us, the miracles in the every day.  We fished.  We camped.  We rode bikes (well, I didn’t ride until I was twelve, so mostly I got rides on his bike).  We took trips.  We went to family reunions.  Grampa was always there.

In high school he remained as steadfast as ever.  Once a week he’d pick me up early and we’d go for “coffee” before classes.  I always had a hot chocolate.  Those mornings were sooo important to me.  And I knew that if I was ever in  a spot I could count on him.  He’d pick me up and give me rides to Youth, and drove to come get me TWICE on Sundays for morning and evening service.  He was my best friend.  It may not have been a ‘cool’ thing to admit, but if anyone ever asked me, I was always the first to tell them exactly that.  My Grampa was my bestie, my BFF.  I was popular, I had lots of friends…  but none of them came close to the love and friendship that he and I shared.

When Grampa married Joan I was in University…  and I’ll admit it…  I disliked her out of pure jealousy.  All the time that he used to spend with me, well, he now spent with her.  No, I wasn’t cut out of the picture entirely.  We still spent several days a week together…  but I was jealous.  I was a kid, and my best friend had found a new best friend.  Now I look back and am more than a little embarrassed about feeling that way.  I love Joan, she’s a member of the family, and I’m so glad that Grampa has her…  and that we have her too.

That was the beginning of our separation.  Slowly, as I grew up, the gap widened.  We spent less time together.  Our interests didn’t lead us in the same directions.  And these days (fifteen years later) I’m lucky to see Grampa once a month… and often that is just in passing.

So, the idea that my Grampa, one of the most important men people in my life, will be turning EIGHTY?!?!?  Well…  it’s hit me rather hard.  77, 78, 79… no problem.   But 80 is different.  80 is hard.

I’m in the middle of helping to plan his birthday party…  trying to track down people that he and I used to see all the time.  The Morin’s, the Lutz’s, people who’s names I’ve forgotten but who’s faces I remember…  people who were adults, who I  smiled at and waved to from the other end of the Church that my Grampa and I helped to build (both literally and figuratively).  I’m hoping to find them all, so they too can help celebrate the man who has meant so very much to me, who has ALWAYS been there…  who I know I can still count on no matter what.

No.  Not all our memories are blissful and happy. Like the time we drove to Wisconsin for a family reunion…  Grampa, two of my younger cousins, and myself.  Then came home with lice from one of the motels we stayed in on the trip home.  It was SOOOO gross.  They were HUGE.  And I was a TEENAGER!  It was a nightmare.  But even that I can look back on and laugh – because we were in it together.

The fact that this man, my Grampa, is now going to be 80 scares me.

I remember, during one of our “coffee” dates.  He suddenly fell silent and took my hands into his.  “Tobi”, he said.  “I want you to promise me something.”  The mood instantly changed, and I’ve never forgotten it.  It’s something I’ve carried with me my entire life.  “When I die, I don’t want a funeral.”  I remember being totally taken aback.  I was 16, and my Grampa was talking to me about dying.  “Promise me you’ll plan everything.  Throw me a party.  I don’t want anyone to mourn.  When I  die, I’m going home.  It’s something to be celebrated.”  I made that promise, and at the time it was really just my way of trying to get him to stop talking about it.

Grampa has never been old, and I can’t imagine him ever being old.  He’s always been active.  Even when his pain got the better of him, he’d just find a new way to keep being active.  He’d give up one thing, but would find something else.  He’s been a member of a gym now for about six months.  Goes a few times a week, and is better shape than he’s been in for some time.  He’s not old, so I don’t know what that number scares me.  That number may be old, but my Grampa is not.

So…  here’s to my Grampa!  One of the best men I know.  To another entire lifetime.  To him never getting tired, never slowing down.  To him, and all he’s given me.  To the love we shared, and continue to share (despite growing somewhat apart).  He’s amazing…  and I look forward to celebrating him with our family and all his friends this February.

Will he get a chance to read this?  Not as long as it’s solely available online.  He sold his computer after a few months, claiming he didn’t receive enough email for it to be worth the trouble.  LOL

I love you Grampa.

a scrapbook layout I did using photos from grampas last birthday

Bill Guskjolen’s 80th Birthday

Friend of Bill’s?

Hope to see you in February at his birthday party.

See the link above for all the details.

About Tobi-Dawne

Tobi-Dawne Smith is many things to many people... photographer, canine behaviour expert, equal rights activist, green politician, lactivist, intactivist, writer, crafter, dog handler, third wave feminist, etc. But most important in her life is her role as mother to an amazing five year old. Learn more about TD at follow her blog at get to know her daughter at or check out her work at

Posted on January 27, 2011, in Family, Nikon D70, People, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I actually met your grandpa many many years ago TD…just in passing…but I remember it. I believe at the were as yet unborn, but soon to arrive 🙂

    I’m glad you had the opportunity to grow up with your grandfather, too many times..children are robbed of that wonderful gift…and for the stupidest reasons!

    Enjoy! And always, always..hold those memories close to your heart!

  2. I never had the opportunity meet either of my grandfathers. Your post is very touching, heartfelt and openly shows the camaraderie you had. You are very blessed to have a grandfather like that – he sounds like an amazing individual.

  3. By accident I found your post. Wow, What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather…, enjoyed reading it. PS: You need to get him back on a computer…once he does—BOMBARD him with a ton of email. He’ll enjoy it.

  4. TD: What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather!! I felt all the love coming through your words and know instinctively that you mean as much to him!! As long as that love exists, age will never be a problem for theat love is endless!! Thank you for sharing such a powerful post.

  5. How wonderful, TD, that your grandfather has been such an integral part of your life. I hope you do show him this heartfelt and wonderful piece! So often, we wait until it’s too late to share what’s in our hearts. My dad was never a “touchy-feely-fuzzy” type guy, but my son, who was 3 1/2 when my dad passed away, still remembers phone conversations he had with his Grandpa, and still talks about him. Neither of Sean’s grandfathers are still alive (one died before he was born). I also had a grandfather who passed before I was born, and the other died when I was 4. You are so lucky to have been able to foster this special relationship throughout your life. It has evolved and changed, of course, but what a special bond you have!

  6. You are very lucky to have such a special man in your life. I’m sure your love keeps him young. Enjoy celebrating his birthday with friends and family, and search for new ways to connect. I’m sure he misses you in his life too.

  7. Awwww, very sweet Tobi. My Grandma held the same treasured spot in my heart for me. She was the one static when my whole world was topsy turvy. It was torture to see her slip into Alzheimers more than a decade ago and it was joy to see her leave this world behind one year ago.

    Enjoy the birthday party and the time you have with him. He sounds like a wonderful man.

  8. What a beautiful heart felt tribute to your Grampa. Thanks for sharing him with us.

  9. Tobi, here is a post I did a few months ago, about a man that was SOOO much like a grandfather to me. I think you will be able to relate to how I felt about him. I hope your grandpa gets a new computer for his birthday!

  10. Nice tribute to your grandfather. Thanks for sharing.

  11. What a lovely tribute to a lovely man. Happy birthday Grandpa!!

  12. Thank you so much everyone. Your comments and support really do mean the world to me. Reading them brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  13. Just read this blog …ya did good kiddo. Dad/Grandpa is unique and has softened alot since he had his grandkids. He loves each and everyone of you immensely.

  1. Pingback: Grampa’s 80th Birthday! « TD 365

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