Welcome to February. The month of people as topics. How did January and items go for you? I found that once I started a notebook and jotted down ideas as they came to me (for that month and future months), my brain had room to think of other things. Just an idea.


Pa with my dad (his grandson). They built a small desk together when my dad was young that has been passed down and used by at least 6 kids.

My paternal grandmother’s father was called Pa. Everyone called him Pa. My brother and I might call him Great Grandpa Swartz to his face, but he was always referred to as Pa. He is one of those people I knew (I was 21 when he died) but I didn’t really know him. He was about 65 when I was born and a very quiet man. A farmer by trade and yet what he had on his farm (Cows? Pigs? Did he farm corn or soybeans or both?) I have no idea. I see pictures of the farm, but honestly have no memory of him there, just in his later life at the nursing home.

A tall, thin man, he struggled with dementia and Parkinson’s the last five years of his life. He lived in an assisted living facility near my grandparents. This was years before my mother started to work in a nursing home and the whole idea was so fascinating to me. It was a sprawling facility, all carpeted with small gathering rooms that always had a puzzle going on one of the tables. There was a dining room where they could go for their meals if they chose not to prepare them in their own room. There was a pottery area and room where they volunteered and made braided rugs. Also, a beauty parlor and a shuffleboard area! Oh, how my ten-year-old self loved being able to head down and give it a try.

Pa never missed a birthday or Christmas (ok my adult self realizes that it was my grandmother doing the work but still). I would receive a brand spanking new $5 bill with a card and the shakily written Pa at the bottom. Five dollars! He was hands down the richest man I knew.

My mom, Pa and I (mid/late 1970s)

He was a man who took pride in his appearance. When visiting him, he was always wearing dress pants and a button shirt (mostly short sleeve). Even his slide on slippers (the tremors made tying anything impossible) were subtle yet stylish. His hair was always combed and a tiny black comb near him so he could make sure he looked neat. Later as the tremors grew in intensity, he would always have hard candy near him and a piece in his month as the medicine gave him dry mouth.  

Pa would hold my hand when I talked to him. I remember the feel of his dry, slightly chilly hand gently in mine and from time to time he would pat the top of mine with his other hand. My view of him is through a lens of a child and I am sure I would have different emotions had I been older or known him in a different light like his wife and daughter did, but to me he was quiet, tidy man who always had candy to share when I visited.

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