I have been thinking about writing a piece on my Grandpa Seibert since his passing in 2008. It has been a bit difficult to get all the things I want to say about him straight in my head.
Growing up we spent more time with my mother’s side of the family (Cherrington) and so I suppose that I am not as close to my dad’s side of the family due to their distance from us growing up, they lived in another town in Illinois.
Rev. William Peter Seibert AKA Grandpa was a wonderful story teller and probably the reason I love a good story to this day. From the time I was very young he would tell these stories about traveling with his jazz band and playing at the bars. A Trombone player, he once played a bar with a revolving stage. When you were done playing, the stage would revolve and the musicians would find themselves in another bar and they would then play that one. There were many stories about the different places they played and I wish I could relay them to you as he would have with great enthusiasm and details, unfortunately I don’t remember them like I would love to. I guess that is part of the grief of a passing one, the things that you treasure sometimes have blank spots in them and you wish you could ask one more time, “How does that story go Grandpa?”
Another story that was frequently relayed was about these shoes. “The best shoes, they were so beautiful!” He loved them but they had seen their better days and one day my Grandma threw them out. Apparently he was very upset about this or more likey just enjoyed telling us about the beautiful shoes that Grandma threw away. It was a double joy for him, he was able to tease Grandma and make us smile.
He was a feeling man. I am not sure where they were living when this next story came about but he talked about how every year at Christmas during his time there, a man from the Indian Reservation would come and sell X-mas wreaths. The man would then steal them back off of the front doors where they were hung and re-sell them. I think my grandpa got a quiet laugh out of it all. I don’t know that he took things like that too seriously. He was a “the day has enough worry of it’s own” kind of guy. I’m not sure these things bothered him. He told me one time, looking back I think he was trying to make sure I was Ok with all the moving around we did as I kid (well not much has changed for me), anyways, he told me something along these lines, “You worried yesterday about tomorrow and tomorrow is today and all is fine.” He took this approach on life I believe, trying to keep everything in it’s perspective.
He took such a peaceful view of things. I can’t help but to think of him when I do the dishes. We talked about household duties one time and he said how he enjoyed washing the dishes. He liked to watch the suds flow off the dish to reveal a clean dish. I have tried to take that zen approach when I do the dishes, I admit to not being very….zen-like. But when he described the suds being washed from the dish, you would have have thought he was describing a Rembrandt, he made the normal exceptional.
I never saw him on a rant or talk with raised voices in fact I only saw him angry once. When my Grandparents moved to Galesburg to be closer to their children, I was at their house one morning eating a bowl of frosted mini wheats. I am not sure of the circumstances around my being there but as I was eating I noticed little bugs in my cereal. He moved so fast. He was on the phone giving the what-fore to whatever sorry bastard was on the receiving side. I remember hearing the words “My granddaughter” and then some jarble but either way he was ticked. Yet his voice was steady and his I am sure his words were just as deliberate.
Grandpa (who preferred to be called grand father I think, but I never did) used to tell me that their old farm house(that’s what it was in my mind) was haunted. He claimed that once, while shaving at the sink in the bathroom, his shaving cream floated straight off the back of the toilette and dropped on the floor. After that story I was sure their house was haunted. But I loved going there, they had croquet. I found croquet odd and inviting, it was like playing a game from a foreign country to me having grown up in a town that valued baseball as the highest game that is played. I can’t see a croquet mallet without seeing that house and remembering the ghost story.
He also wrote, much like my grandmother, he had a way with words and when they came out of his mouth they sounded eloquent and well put together, which is why i think he was an effective preacher along with his earnestness and passion. He could have made the word ‘fuck” sound like a soft warm breeze on a summers day.
My memories of my Grandpa are snap shots. They come to me unsuspectingly. They always fill me with good thoughts, which is a welcome visitor during harder times. He joked, he laughed at himself and he loved his girl, my Grandma.
He had a disease that attacked his brain much like Alzheimers. He slowly no longer knew who I was. It never has bothered me though because even as a “stranger” in his room, he treated me like a family member. That made loving and appreciating who he was even easier.
When his image comes to my mind, I see him sitting to one side in his lazy boy, legs crossed, his face resting on his fingers and his eyes looking through his glasses, smiling. If I had to choose one word to describe him, it would be too difficult because he was all good things but I would say the element that stands out the most would be that he was a genuine person. That sounds strange, it’s not the typical “he was kind and loving” speech but in this world with all it’s mixed up and generally fucked up people, it is quite an accomplishment to leave this earth as a genuine person, untouched by the malice and bitterness life can impose on us . My Grandpa Seibert was a good man.
We live, hopefully taking the good examples life hands us to heart. My Grandpa was and is one of those examples, or lessons that I take with me. His life was a beautiful tapestry woven with beautiful stories of love, compassion, laughter, music and sincerity. I treasure them as I treasure him and the given chance to walk with him for a little while in this life.