Grandpa Henkel

My Grandpa Henkel was born in 1873. Yes. 133 years ago.

Grandpa died in 1962 when I was 10 years old. I guess I knew him about as well as a 10 year old boy could know an 89 year old man. Everything on the outside of him was old. His face, his hands, his clothes, his smell, his cane, his walk, his beechnut chewing tabacco, the works. But the stuff on the inside was new. He was a tease. And I do believe he liked the jokes I told him. He was half-deaf, but he could hear what Grandma was saying about him in the kitchen. (That’s the half that wasn’t deaf.) I know that he enjoyed Grandma’s buttermilk pancakes just as much as his 10 year old grandson did.

Grandpa didn’t own a wrist watch. His Elgin pocket watch still worked fine. His last home, on Logan Street in Centralia, had the conveniences of modern life. Electric lights, an electric range, and a rotary dial telephone on a stand in the bedroom hallway. The house was warm, if you were in the kitchen by the “trash burner” — a small wood burning stove that also served to heat water for the house. It was warm too in the dining room on the other side of the wall where a larger wood burning stove shared the chimney. The bedrooms were warm too, if you had a nice blanket.

As I grew up, I came to realize that other kids had grandpas who could play baseball, and who spent lots of time NOT sitting in a chair, who had jobs and even wrist watches. Amazing. That was a different kind of grandpa. But I knew that my Grandpa was somehow grander.

I’m glad that I was able to know him for those ten years in which our lives crossed.

By the way, his Elgin pocket watch still works fine, though usually it stays in my dresser drawer. And I don’t own a wrist watch either. I just use the clock on my cell phone, it’s always in my pocket!

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