Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Virgil Paul Bohls, my paternal grandfather, would have been 96 today.

Oh, but he passed away twenty-five years ago now. But still, I remember when he died. He’d been in the hospital, and I was living with my father in Minnesota, so Dad and I drove to Toledo. I didn’t get to see him, but I think maybe Dad did, at the hospital. But anyway he died early on Thanksgiving Day. It was really hard praying for all the things we were thankful for as we said grace before Thanksgiving dinner. I remember Grandma sobbing and Dad reaching across the table to hold her hand.

I hadn’t had much experience with funerals and funeral homes, and I was terribly upset by the open casket and the viewing. I was all of eighteen then. Years later now I’m much more used to funerals, even feeling and understanding the need and benefit for ceremony and a defined time to grieve and say goodbye and celebrate someone’s life and death, the whole thing. But it was new to me then and, like I said, upsetting.

I got to be a pallbearer; in fact I was the oldest of the pallbearers. There were six or eight of us, his grandchildren, who carried him. I remember being astonished at how heavy the casket was. But I was glad that I got to carry him. I remember my cousin Mary Pat as one of the other pallbearers, but I can’t remember who else it was.

I had visited him the previous summer, when I was driving through Toledo on my way to moving to Minnesota. I seem to remember spending the night, although I’m not entirely sure. I definitely remember spending a night with my other grandparents, my Nana and Papa. And I definitely remember having dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, where it was a relatively quiet affair. I was a pretty sad wrecked depressed wretch back in those days and didn’t have a whole lot to say. Grandpa himself was a pretty reserved guy. So it was a quiet dinner.

He built that house, where my father and his siblings grew up, and where my Aunt Carol lives now. Apparently they used a team of horses to dig the hole for the foundation. But then after a few years Grandpa built an addition on to the house. And then he dug the basement under the addition himself, with a shovel and a bucket. Took him two years to dig that basement.

Sometimes my father brags about me to his friends, about like how Dawn and I do work around the house, remodling the kitchen or whatnot. Dad will say that I get the knack to do such things from Grandpa. I just about burst with pride to hear that.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!