A couple of days ago Mom called as we were driving home from Oklahoma City. Karen answered and I could tell by her response that it wasn’t good news. Not entirely unexpected, but not good news just the same. My grandpa, William R Atwood, had passed away.
What to say about Grandpa. First and foremost is that he was the center and origin of joy. We are lucky in this family, the Atwoods, to be a group filled with joy and curiosity. It’s part of our genetic makeup, a part that most certainly came from Grandpa. Where Grandma was the inspiration and adventure and mischief, Grandpa was the happiness with a good natured easy going manner. This was never more evident than when anyone entered his space. He would light up at just the sight of someone. A truly genuine and amazing thing.
Grandpa had no pretense. No agenda. He wanted to be right where he was, saying right what he was saying, enjoying everything you were saying and doing, without a thought for anything else. He knew what it absolutely meant to live in the moment. Always did. From teaching me how to tie my shoes and play backgammon, to walking in the woods, enjoying a laugh with family, making pudgy pies while camping, and just smiling from the eyes as he listened to you tell a story about this or that thing, he was there with you. Full mind, body, and soul. A lesson, always, in being present. You always felt listened to, heard, loved, and adored with Grandpa. He had that kind of magic.
I used to watch him with people, I loved doing that. The way he seemed almost giddy at whatever one of his 19 grandchildren or 7 children had to say. The way he loved, and always went along with, Grandma’s ideas to take off and roam around the country. His response was always… sure, let’s do it. He was the same with everything. Ready, available, open, eyes always on yours.
Grandpa knew how to have a good time. For him that usually meant whatever he was doing at the time, with whoever happened to be around. A special quality that allowed him to truly enjoy himself and those around him, no matter what. This all sprang, I’m sure, from his uncanny ability to be at ease. He was so good natured, so mellow. I don’t know, in all my life, if I ever saw him mad. Maybe slightly miffed a couple of times, but never really mad. He knew how to put things in perspective. Another gift.
Grandpa and Grandma had an enormous, loving, amazing family. Seven children, 19 grandchildren, a passel of great grandchildren, and now some great great grandchildren. Grandpa liked to say that he had 70 progeny, and if you include all the people he touched throughout his life via his music, work as an educator, friends, and extended families through marriage, there were many more than that who were touched by his spirit for living, his warmth, and his ability to include everyone.
I smile when I think of him. I always have. He had that kind of effect. Still does. I think of him playing the piano in only the way he could, with an almost childlike exuberance not often seen. I think of dancing with him, keeping up with Grandpa rhythm, the rhythm only he had. I think of talking to him about life plans and hearing his non-judging acceptance and encouragement. I think of watching he and Grandma interact with each other… Billth and Marth. I think of walks in the woods and lessons about life and spontaneous runs for ice cream and plays put on in the barn on the farm and I smile a big ol’ smile. I think of Grandpa’s smile and that makes me smile all the more. He had a one of a kind fantastic smile from the eyes kind of smile. A smile with a twinkle.
He was, to the very core, a stellar human being. An honest, genuine, fun loving, real, true man who always made me, and anyone in his presence, feel special. That’s the kind of man he was, who he was to me. He made me feel special and loved and his being able to do that, to be that for me and for all of us… that was another of his magic gifts. Just as he was a gift to all of us.
I love you Grandpa. I love you.