Linwood Flanders (1922-2013)

Four days ago, when I visited my grandfather in the ICU, I stopped at the information desk to ask how to find ICU Room 142. The woman at the desk looked up at me, smiled, and said, “You must be Linwood’s granddaughter.”

This is a greeting I have come to know as normal in this part of Maine. Everybody seemed to know my grandfather, and love him. Although I am not a born Mainer (and therefore am “from away” by all Mainers’ standards), this has always made me feel like I am home in Guilford. I hope that the people that knew my grandfather will continue to know me as Linwood’s granddaughter.

Of course, when urged to remember everything you can about a person, it is difficult to do so. My grandfather was an accomplished storyteller. Whenever I saw him, which was often, he would have some story to tell about his time in the army, or growing up in rural Maine, or my father’s basement bomber shenanigans when he was a boy. After my grandmother passed away many years ago, he always had stories to tell about her. I wish I could remember them all right now. But I will share with you what I can.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit him in his assisted living home in Dover-Foxcroft, and found him reading his bible. Papa was a dedicated Methodist, and found comfort and wisdom in his bible’s worn pages. His bible is an old leather-bound one, worn with use and full of little notes sticking out between the pages — newspaper stories, quotes, and, as he opened to one page to show me, a drawing that I had made as a wee one for him. It was from a time when I drew people with their legs coming directly out of their necks. Certainly nothing special, but scrawled across it on the top was “I love you papa.” I was touched that he had kept this with him so close for so many years.

He then proceeded to tell me how this bible actually belonged to my grandmother. He told me that she used to tell him she envied how used his bible looked, and he told me then that he had been using her bible to have her close to him, and said that she would be proud of how worn it now looked. This is just one example of how much he kept her with him every day, even after she passed away.

When I was a child, it used to make me laugh endlessly when he said “You must be joshing me.”

He called soda “bellywash,” and to this day I still think of soda that way, which is why I never drink it.

We had a hugging pact, the two of us. I would write him letters promising him hugs, and he would write back saying he looked forward to it. I always had to stay back for one more hug after we had our “family hugs” before my family drove back down to Mass, or even if we were just leaving to go into camp. I loved his hugs. Warm, loving, and he always had something to say to indicate how much he loved me, and loved seeing me, and how proud he was of everything I have accomplished.

Back when I started college, I would drive up to visit him sometimes. I would stop at Subway and get us sandwiches, and we would sit in the living room and eat on the TV dinner tables and he would tell me stories. I wish I had done this more often, but early college students are egocentric and occupied.

He knew before I did about an award that the school was going to give me, and told everybody around about it. My grandfather was always immensely proud of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and he let us know it. I consider us so lucky to have had him for so long.

Papa was a gardener. The smell of fresh tomatoes will always remind me of him. Even more? Peas. Peas were papa’s favorite food. I loved to sit and help him shell them.

Peas

I don’t have much else to say for now. I am sure more will come later. I look forward to hearing the stories that everybody else has of him. I will miss him more than I can say. I love you, Papa. Rest easily.

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6 thoughts on “Linwood Flanders (1922-2013)

  1. I’m sure he’s glad to have left behind such a wonderful family that will remember him so fondly and keep his reason for being proud going strong. Sorry for you loss Lauren, it sounds like he was a wonderful man and grandfather.

  2. Dear Lauren and Alice, we all know how special grandparents are. They give us love that is patient and kind, unhurried and warm; they give our lives dimension and history, structure, like the good foundation of a house, and add depth and color to our family masterpiece painting. Know that the memory of your grandfather, your fondest happiest memories, and his hug, will never be far away, but with you forever in your hearts. With love and sympathy for your loss, Auntie Claire.

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