Grandpa Sommers

My Grandpa Sommers fell out of a tree and died right before his 98th birthday. Yep, you read that correctly. HE FELL OUT OF A TREE AND DIED AT THE AGE OF 97. (With a chainsaw in hand, might I add.)

This happened in October 2010.

Now I could probably spend a good ten blog entries writing about my Grandpa Sommers, since he was an intriguing soul. He prepared people’s taxes in his home well into his 90s, and was a retired minister and farmer. He got up early and went to bed late. He sang beautifully. He was affectionate–not afraid to hold my hand or give tight hugs. He was soft spoken and only used rotary telephones. He answered the phone, “Sommers’ residence,” instead of saying a boring hello. He loved building things, gardening, and planning and completing projects around the home and outdoors.

He was thoughtful and frugal. He always shopped at Aldi’s and ate from the garden. He told me once that when he took his hand-saw in to get it sharpened at Menards, they were going to charge him 50 cents, and that was too expensive.

“I was expecting a dime,” he said. I tried to explain to him that it is natural for prices to increase over time, but he wasn’t having any of that.

Several years after my Grandma passed away, Grandpa started to date again. He mainly dated one particular woman. However, he broke up with her for a period of time, when she criticized his clothing choice. They were getting ready to leave on a date, and she said, “You’re wearing THAT??!” referring to a flannel shirt he had on.

Grandpa decided he was too old to deal with that kind of crap and broke things off. After awhile, they started dating again, but it was never the same.

Grandpa had standards. He didn’t let people push him around.

He loved life. He loved work. My dad would look out the window on snowy days at 5:00 am and see his father-in-law shoveling.

“Now why is he doing that? He’s making me look bad,” my dad would mutter.

Every fall, Grandpa liked to cut all of the tops of his trees off. He said this made them more beautiful when they would begin to grow again in the spring.

He mentioned to my mom that he was going to cut down the biggest tree in the front yard.

My mom all but begged him not to do it.

So, he instead cut the tree down in his back yard, and didn’t tell her about it.

At some point during the process, he fell. They lifelined him in a helicopter to Indianapolis. They operated on his legs.

He survived the operation, but once he woke up and realized the severity to the injuries in his legs, he let go of life.

Someone at his funeral said, “Clayton died the same way he lived. He died doing something he loved.”

Grandpa’s life wasn’t easy. He lost a son to cancer. He lost a grandson. He lost his father right before he was supposed to go to Depauw University on a full ride scholarship. He ended up not going to college, since his mother asked him to stay with her.

But I never once heard him begin a sentence with “I’m worried about…” or “I’m angry because..” He just didn’t have time for self pity. Grandpa believed everything happened for a reason, and that things were always exactly as they should be.

He knew when to let go. He didn’t hold on to his broken legs, begging for healing.

You see, I want to be this man. I want to leave a legacy behind that has people talking about me for years. I want to get up every morning and do what I love. I want to serve others, yet never allow myself to be pushed around or devalued. I want to know that I am living in a universe filled with intent and purpose. I’m not just a bunch of cells colliding around, bumping into things and letting life happen to me.

I want to care deeply about each day. Because that is the point.

And the next point is that Grandpa loved cornbread. This was Grandma’s recipe:

1 c. yellow corn meal
1 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 egg
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. shortening

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Add egg, milk and shortening. Beat with mixer until smooth–about 1 minute. Do not over beat. Bake in 8 inch sq. pan at 425 degrees for 20-25 min.


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