And now Grandpa is gone, too. And I have too many things to say to find words for them. He was one of the best men I ever knew: kind, patient, generous, with a quiet happiness that filled up everyone around him. For all that, he loved to argue--he taught me that you can disagree without being disagreeable, that you can ask questions without losing faith.
In my childhood, I see him pottering about with the bee hives, driving his big blue truck which always smelled of cigarette smoke and honey. He ran the extractor in the basement of one of our old outbuildings, giving us chunks of beeswax to chew on in the long dry grass of a summer afternoon. There were two tiny seats behind the main ones in the truck and Toolboy and I would ride with him up to his house to be put to work. He was a person who taught without appearing to teach, as if it naturally flowed out of him. When I got to law school, I found that he had already paved the way with a lifetime of the Socratic method.
All through his life, he loved the things that grew. His greenhouses overflowed, and he was always researching how to do more. It was only last year that he figured out that tomatoes and strawberries should be in separate greenhouses, and built accordingly. He never stopped learning, or trying new things. In the last year, he was thinking of taking up model airplane flying and airsoft guns.
Despite being nearly deaf to voices, he was a careful and patient listener. (On TV he mostly limited himself to westerns, where it didn't matter so much whether you caught the dialogue or not.) Nor, no matter how great his own burdens, did he ever stop caring about others. If he had any fault, it was taking too much on himself and not wanting to burden others.
Mostly his last years were taken up with caring for his wife and daughter, which he did tirelessly and with great joy. With them gone, his strength failed him and he waited, quietly but happily, for his turn to come.
It is perhaps inevitable that those who have lived the longest and the best are the least free with their advice. But I will pass on the one piece I can remember from the past four years: "Be sure to play with your kids."
Oh, well, there was the other one, the one he always said, "Be very careful."