Eulogy

Most anyone who gets to know me for more than a couple of days hears about my grandpa. The conversation usually starts when they ask me why it is that I am the way I am.

As with all of us, there are many reasons, but my explanation always starts with one of my fondest memories: Grandpa would pick me up in the middle of the day when I was released from kindergarten and take me home for lunch. We’d sit down to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and talk — usually about Ronald Reagan.

That political discussion we started 27 years ago never ended.

I feel that I was the luckiest — or most blessed — of us grandkids because during those formative years I was able to spend so much time with him. The impact he had on my life was profound. When I was a child, my grandpa was my best friend.

Even after we no longer lived under the same roof, I was at my grandparents’ much of time — during the summers, Christmas and Easter breaks and many times in between. In addition to making me a Republican, during that time grandpa taught me many things.

Grandpa had an amazing interest in the world. He religiously watched the local news, cable news, “Nightline” — all of it. His mornings started with bitter coffee and no less than two newspapers, a habit I picked up. It was a priority for him to be informed. His curiosity became mine.

When I went into journalism, it was always comforting to know that there was at least one person out there doing his best to keep the news business solvent.

In those early years, he and grandma spent a lot of time driving me around town — to swimming lessons, tennis lessons, vacation Bible school, museums, Pastor Ben’s house to play with Bart, historical sites, movie sets. During the many vacations we took together to visit family, stops were added along the way, sometimes taking us far beyond the quickest route. We went to the Grand Canyon, the Denver Mint, Mt. Rushmore — even the birthplace of Herbert Hoover.

But he wanted me to be well-rounded.

That’s probably why, when I was young, he taught me how to tie a perfect Windsor knot, mow a lawn and make friends at a hotel bar. He even once tried to teach me how to hit a baseball, but grandma put an end to that experiment when a stray pitch hit me in the head.

Those things will always be with me. Whenever I get into a political debate or write an editorial, my grandpa is there. Whenever I put on a tie, eat a grilled cheese sandwich or travel to a place I’ve never been, he will be there with me.

The biggest thing I hope to have learned from my grandpa is to be a man of love. As a family we’ve talked about how much he enjoyed to so-called “little things” in life — a cold beer with mixed nuts, a baseball game, a crackling fire, mountain views, ’57 Chevies and looking to see if there’s “water in that river.” It didn’t matter which river it was, just that there was water in it. If you said something that was a lyric of song he knew, he would start singing it. Not always on key, but he would sing it.

Those “little things” gave him so much pleasure because he truly loved life, and that was contagious. He was the embodiment of joy. The only times I saw him get angry were when the St. Louis Cardinals lost a playoff game or the Iowa Hawkeyes missed a touchdown. I think the only people he hated were the ones who put on a Kansas City Royals uniform.

Family was so important to grandpa. He loved and felt an eternal connection to his parents and sisters. He would often recite a prayer at dinner he learned from his grandparents in their native Swedish tongue, and ask us to “pass the smör.”

And I know from the stories I’ve been told and from experience that there wasn’t anything Grandpa wouldn’t do to support each of us.

He loved and accepted the people he met. From his wonderful life-long friends to any of our friends. He didn’t get caught up in the silly dramas that encompass so many people’s lives — he simply enjoyed being around people, which made people enjoy being around him. One of my friends who met him briefly 8 years ago still asks about grandpa whenever we talk.

He loved this church. Grandpa’s faith was of the sort that Jesus said we should all approach God: As a child. He was curious, and excited to be here. Hearing his favorite hymns put a smile on his face all day.
When we would come together, much of our conversation that afternoon would be about Ben’s sermon. Though I think he enjoyed the time after the service, in the Common Room with all of you just as much — if not more.

But for all that grandpa taught me, through the tremendous example he set for us and his love for life and family, he wasn’t acting alone. More than anything, he loved you grandma. You two truly were one entity.

He was always in love with you. Just last Christmas, while we were looking at old slides, whenever a picture of grandma popped up, grandpa jumped in his seat and said, “Yowza!”

Everything he did for us he did with you. We have such a wonderful family, and that’s a testament not only to grandpa, but to the life you shared together. I can only hope to someday find love like that.

And I can only hope to live up the example of love that grandpa set for me.

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5 things you should know before dating a journalist

So, you’ve been eyeing that smart, attractive journalist you’re lucky enough to know personally. You’re intrigued. Your journalist is smart, funny, confident. Visions of Clark Kent taking off the glasses and ripping off his clothes to reveal a perfectly toned body in blue spandex coming to save you run through your head.

Who can blame you? Journalism is a sexy occupation.

But journalists aren’t like the bimbos you usually pick up at the bar. Nor are they the assholes you ladies continually fall for. No, journalists are different beings (which is why you’re attracted to them in the first place), and you should realize — before jumping in — that this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill, boring, lame relationship you’re used to.

Here’s what you need to know:

1We can figure things out. Understand, we’re paid to dig deep, find the secrets and wade through bullshit. We can pick up on subtleties, so what you think you are hiding from us won’t be hidden for long. Sure, we’ll act surprised when you eventually tell us you starred in German porn as a freshman in college — but we already knew.

We don’t take shit from anyone, so don’t lie to us or give a load of bullshit. We spend all day separating fact from fiction, listening to PR cronies and dealing with slimy politicians. If you make us do the same with you, you’re just gonna piss us off. And don’t think we’ll be quiet about it. We’ll respond with the vengeance of an Op-Ed page railing against society’s injustices — and we’ll enjoy doing it.

Just tell us the truth. We can handle it.

2At some point, you will be a topic. Either through a feature story or an opinion column, something you do or say will be a subject. Get over it. Consider it a compliment, even if we’re arguing against you in print.

Think about it: we live our lives writing about life. If you’re a part of our life, we’re going to write about you, your thoughts or a subject springing from one of the two.

Don’t be upset when an argument against your adoration of Hillary Clinton turns up on page A4. We’re not directing the writing at you, personally — your ignorance was just our inspiration (there, doesn’t that make you feel better?).

3Yes, we think we’re smarter than you. In fact, we know it. Does that smack of ego? Absolutely — but that confidence is what makes your heart go pitter-patter.

We have a strong, working knowledge of how the world works. That makes us great in conversation. We can delve into the intricacies of zoning laws, local and national politics, where to find the good restaurants, what’s happening with pop culture, where the good bands are playing and more.

But there are pitfalls.

Guaranteed, when you say “towards,” we will automatically say “toward” — “towards” is not a word. We’re not trying to call you dumb (even though you don’t understand the English language), it’s habit. The same will happen when you say “anxious” when you mean “eager” and when you answer “good” when someone asks how you are doing.

We carry ourselves with a certain arrogant air. Embrace it (that’s what attracted you to us in the first place, after all). Don’t be surprised if we’re not impressed when you say, “I’m a writer, too.” No, you are not. The fact that you sit in a coffee shop wearing black while scribbling in your journal does not make you a writer. Nor does the fact that you “wrote some poems in high school” or that one day you want to pen “the great American novel.”

Look, we’re paid to write. Every day. What’s more, our writing matters. It changes opinions, affects decisions and connects people with the world around them.

We’re not spewing our angst or trying to fabricate an aura of creativity. We write about the real world — with real consequences.

Our words go through three or four cranky editors who make us rewrite before it’s printed a few hundred thousand times and distributed all over town. You don’t do that unless you’re confident, even egotistical.

You may have some great journal entries, poems and rudimentary short stories — good for you. Just don’t assume we’ll accept that as on par with what we do (unless you’re really hot, then hell, you’re a better writer than I).

4You’re not less important than the job — the job is just more important than anything else. One doesn’t become a journalist to sit in an office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

We do take our work home. If news is happening, we’ll drop whatever we’re doing — even if it’s with you — to cover it. We’re always looking for stories, so yes, we’ll stop on the street to write something down, interview a passer-by or gather information for a lead.

On that same note, don’t get upset if you call us on deadline suggesting some afternoon nookie and we say, “I’ve got to put the paper to bed first.” That could mean hours from now, but we’ll have plenty of time to put you in bed later.

5You won’t be disappointed. Journalists are intense, driven, passionate folk. We carry those same attributes into our relationships, making it an extremely fun ride well worth the price of admission. Our lives are never boring and each day is different.

If the pitfalls are scaring you away, consider this:

The fact that we’re inquisitive means we’ll listen to you. Even if it does seem like an interview, we’re paying attention to what you have to say (see rule No. 1).

We’ll write about you or your thoughts because you’re an important part of our life and we care about you (see rule No. 2).

Our brains are a great resource. Ever go on a date with an attractive person and wind up wishing you hadn’t because everything they say is just, well, stupid? That’s not going to happen here (see rule No. 3).

Yes, it may seem that we put the job ahead of you, but we’re driven. You’re not with that loser whose life is going nowhere and who’s completely content being mediocre (see rule No. 4).

There you go, five things you should know before dating a journalist. Feel free to add to the list, point out where I’ve missed something or leave a comment. And yes, ladies, I’m single (see rule No. 5).

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