Today would mark my Grandpa Hansen’s 91st Birthday. Born in 1923 to a large Mormon family somewhere in Idaho, he served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, came home married my Grandma a few years later and settled down in the Salt Lake/Bountiful area where my Dad and two aunts were born. He worked at Hill Air Force base for years as an engineer and retired shortly before I was born.
From my earliest memories my Grandpa and Grandma were always a part of my life. It helped that they only lived a couple miles away in the same city. I have many memories of sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house with Grandpa’s World Famous Banana Pancakes for breakfast. Then if we were lucky he would take us to his shop where he would help him make little wooden figurines or a project for the house.
My Grandpa was a true engineer and had one of the most creative minds I’ve ever known. If you ever wondered how to do something, literally anything, it was much easier to ask Grandpa than try to figure it out yourself. Especially if it came to home repair. There is a reason why he was nicknamed “Merlin the Magician.”
In 1993 my Grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer and despite a bleak diagnosis he fought courageously for over three years before succombing it in late 1996. He never once complained about it nor did any of us kids realize much that he was sick. He was Grandpa and life went on as far as he was concerned. Up until he the day he passed away he was still sharing his love for art with the local senior citizen center like he did with us kids and our school classes.
As I have been working on constructing my book, I’ve taken time to write down as many memories as I can in a notebook. I’ve done to not just fill content or jog my memory, but each memory … good or bad … has shaped me into the person I am today. A number of those memories have included ones with Grandpa. He has been a big part of my life and I’ve realized that even more as I’ve started writing my book.
Here are a few of my favorite memories of my Grandpa Hansen …
- That chuckle of his. I will always remember that chuckle. It wasn’t a laugh, it was a chuckle he released whenever he found anything funny.
- Christmas 1990 when he made a Noah’s Ark in his workshop for my MANY plastic animals. This has been the greatest gift ever given to me. The love and time that went through it means the world to me. I still have the ark and plan on passing it on to my own kids.
- The moment he would grab his camera out to capture the moment with his family around (I am sure if he was around today, he’d be taking selfies with the best of us).
- In the 8th grade before my Grandpa passed away he came to my art class and taught us about mini-mosaic belt buckles an artform he invented and mastered. He also shared this technique with a couple of my other classes … all while going under chemotherapy and other treatments. He would do ANYTHING for us grandkids.
- The kindness he showed to his mother, my Great Grandmother, that example shows through my Dad’s love for his mother and to us kids and our own Mom.
- The Christmas following his cancer diagnosis he couldn’t leave the house so we took Christmas to him and my Grandma. We all gathered around his bed and opened our gifts. Instead of getting our usual card and money, the gift also included things around the house that meant something to us. I got his boombox that he had in his workshop. I know he sensed his time was coming to an end, even though he fought on for another three years.
- I remember the one time I made Grandpa mad. I can’t remember what it was (I think I might have talked back to Grandma?), but I learned early on to never make him upset.
- Sometimes when I wanted to go home “SICK” I would call my grandparents knowing that my Grandpa would come pick me up. I’ll always remember those rides from the school to their house. My Grandpa was a very deliberate driver with FM100 playing at a certain low level while my Grandma told me we could watch cartoons when we got to their house.
- Saturday morning banana pancakes were always my favorite, especially when he would load them up with chocolate chips.
- I remember going to the pet store with my Grandpa to pickout goldfish for his backyard pond.
- For my second birthday he gave me my first two parakeets — Jackie and Elizabeth.
- His love for WWF wrestling was unmatched. Including his love for Atlanta Braves baseball.
- During the fall all us grandkids would help pile up the leaves just so we could all jump into them. The camera was always out for these ocassions.
- I will always remember the field trip he took me and my sisters on to the Utah Natural History Museum. We had lunch at Burger King before going to the museum where we all took pictures of us kids laying in a huge dinosaur print.
- Saying goodbye to Grandpa in the hospital was really the first time it hit me that he was leaving. Never once in those three years of fighting cancer did he complain or talk about with us grandkids. He wanted the time spent with us grandkids not about him, just memories we would always have.
- The excitement my Grandpa would get showing us something he invented or improved around the house. His house was all custom made by him. Where you looked my Grandpa left his undeniable fingerprints. Just like our lives.
Though my Grandpa is not with us anymore, he is still alive in the memories and moments we made together in the time we had. I’ll always be grateful for his example of kindness, sharing your talents, humor and love for your family. I love you Grandpa, Happy Birthday!