Monday, March 3, 2014

melvin rumplethorpe

My little brother is awesome. He is handsome and smart and talented and funny, and even though he has had a greater-than-average amount of suck in his life, he doesn't feel too terribly sorry for himself and still manages to be pretty freakin rad. My brother lost BOTH of his parents (my mom and stepdad) when he was 7 years old :( He bounced around some but ended up with Stepgrams and Stepgramps and stayed there through high school. So when Stepgramps died it was kind of like losing a father. Again. More suck, but as usual my little bro handled it with grace and really cool hair. He spoke at the memorial, and did such a great job. I thought I'd share his words here. I changed the names but everything else is verbatim.

What to say about Grandpa. He was an amazing man who had a profound impact on this world. He shared boundless joy and wisdom with everyone in his life. The saddest aspect of his departure is that we were robbed of his influence. The impression he left on people wasn't immediately obvious. It was subtle, but strong and far-reaching like a vast river.  Imagine the effect he would have had if he were given another decade. Or another few years. Or even another month of vitality. He had this way of quietly making you want to be a better person. After spending some time with him, you had an unexplained urge to try unconventional food combinations. Or put in some extra effort on your most recent project. Or treat yourself to your favorite sweets. Or try a new sport. Or take some time to laugh. Or fix that thing at home you've been meaning to get to.

Speaking of fixing things, he had this vast store of handyman know-how that he shared whenever the situation called for it. He taught me how to change a tire and check the oil. He taught me how to build a deck. How to prepare for ice on the road or bears in your cabin. The knowledge he shared with me was invaluable, though I would never admit it at the time. Before I left for college, Grandpa took me in to the garage with a paper bag like he was taking me on a shopping spree, putting in all of the essential tools I might need for being an adult. Hammer. Screwdrivers. Wrench. The works. I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily in the way that only teenagers can. I said that if anything went wrong, I would find someone else to fix it. I was so sure I wouldn't use those tools that I made a bet. Sure enough, those screwdrivers came in handy, and I had to pay up.

The fact that he was able to put up with my ingratitude and stubbornness speaks volumes about his patience. That was one of his other impressive qualities. How he was able to handle the Kellers [Stepgrams' family] is still a mystery to me. Can you picture wrangling the 3 Carter boys in to building a cabin from scratch?! And don't get me started on Grandma. Those of you lucky enough to have experienced Grandma Carter's candor know that she is not the easiest of women to disagree with. I asked Grandpa how in the hell he lived with her for 60 years. His answer to me was simple: respect. Respect for your significant other and the decisions that they make and the emotions that they have. I later realized that he must have applied the same philosophy to the unruly Keller clan. How else could he have earned the coveted status of honorary blood relative?

Patience was one factor, but so was humor. And boy did Grandpa Carter have a sense of humor. It was unexpected from a generally soft-spoken man. Some of my earliest memories of him were of his right hand, which had a tendency to be possessed by a kid-catching monster called "The Claw". He also got a huge kick out of the Harry Potter books. One of his hobbies was making up names that sounded like they belonged in the wizarding world, like "Melvin Rumplethorpe" or something. His funny bone didn't weaken with age either. I had the privilege of spending the last few months with him. And despite his deteriorating health, his wit was as sharp as ever. I was a bit of a care-giver, and noticed that his cough medicine said to take with plenty of water. So every time I would give it to him, I would also hand him a glass of water, which he would never drink under normal circumstances. Grandma came in to the room and asked "why is it that you'll drink water for him but not for me?" He looked up at her and said "because he's nice to me."

There are countless ways that Grandpa has influenced me. He taught me the importance of comedy, patience, respect, and manual labor. I'm sure that everyone here learned valuable lessons from him as well. And that's what I'll miss the most; the marks he left on this earth. But I take solace in the fact that those marks will have a ripple effect for generations to come. I'll leave you with one of the most inspiring messages I ever got from Grandpa. It's so important that he wore it proudly on a shirt. It goes like this. "Beer: not just for breakfast anymore." Let's raise a toast to that.
a painting of stepgramps that my little brother did IN ONE NIGHT
i wanted to add one last little snippet. lots of people stood up to speak at the memorial and had all sorts of great stories to share about the general hijinx to which stepgramps was a party. many involved margaritas and naked hot-tubbing and some borderline illegal activity. but one in particular cracked me up. you probably had to be there but i'll tell it anyway. it was told by a cousin of stepdad's that i'd never actually met before. he told how he got cancer in college, and stepgramps knew that he was really bummed out because he was normally a super active guy, etc. so, stepgramps figured he would benefit from interaction with a "woman of ill repute." so the cousin is in the hospital and he gets this racy letter from this "woman" which he has to read while his mother is in the room, and he continues to get communications from her over the years, including an email from time to time, even after he was married. turns out these letters and emails were really from stepgramps, posing as the now infamous "Boom Boom LaRue." :) another cute part of that story was that when the cousin did get married, and stepgramps first met his wife, they really hit it off. so the next time stepgramps saw the cousin he presented him with a little trophy that was engraved with the words "second-best wife-picker." (that obviously must have been before he met my mom ;)) <3

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