If I squint my eyes tight enough, sometimes I can still see Gramps standing on his back porch. The house has been gone almost as long as he has, and there aren’t a lot of pictures left of either one, but they both live on forever in my memories.

Gramps lived just off Highway 12, about a mile west of Oakville, his 160 acres of land split 40-60 by the Chehalis River. I drove by there recently and a wave of nostalgia snuck up on me and knocked me flat.

Oh, the hours I spent there as a kid! Agate hunting along the river, learning to drive the hay truck, searching for the lost cow about to “freshen.”  Memory after memory after memory. The things I learned without being taught. The values, the integrity.

Gramps was a harsh no-nonsense German who was “confined” to Fort Lewis during World War I after he enlisted. Perhaps the army thought he might be a spy, who knows, but they would never have seen a more patriotic soldier had he been sent overseas.

He was honest to a fault, and always believed the best about people unless or until they proved him wrong. A teacher, and then a lawyer, he returned to the farm as a young man and never left. I always thought I would grow up to live on that same land, teach in the nearby school, and never want to leave either.

But as it says in the poem “The Road Not Taken,” way leads on to way, and my life has taken twists and turns I couldn’t fathom as a child. I’m not sorry for the way my life has turned out, but I do have regrets. Most of all I regret that he didn’t know what an influence he continues to be in my life.

Tell someone today how much they have meant to you. Write them a letter, make that phone call, or go to a favorite spot and pray. They need to hear it, and you need to say it.

Thank you, Gramps.