My grandfather and I don't really have a relationship. Or if we do, it's the kind where we don't know much about each other and don't say much when we meet. But we care about each other. I know that.
All my life, he's been there for the family meal, cracked some jokes and disappeared. When I was little, he disappeared into a newspaper, or went home to water plants in his greenhouse business. As a teen, I spent Saturday mornings helping with his Kansas Grown Farmers' market. I got to know him a little bit more. He worked like a horse...then he disappear to go make his rounds, visiting venders and solving problems as the president of the committee. Then we'd all go to lunch at one of his two restaurants, Red Beans Bayou Grill or Cracker Barrel. I can still smell the corn fritters, fried okra, iced tea as we hid our sweaty dirty selves in a booth. We'd get teased, yelled at, sunburned and frozen, sometimes bruised and exhausted.
Then I had a job and was getting married and passed the farmers' market torch to sisters (it was a red cowgirl hat, given to me by a customer, believe it or not). Grandpa and I didn't really talk much. I'd come home when I could, he and Grandma would come over. She'd hold my baby and we'd chat about the relatives and life, and Grandpa'd sit and listen. He was getting older and his health wasn't so pretty good.
The last time I saw him though, he started talking. Talking about the history of our old home town, Hesston. I saw the familiar old man with his watery blue eyes look back into the past and he told me how the town used to be. He started talking about Mr. Abraham Lincoln Hess, who gave land to build the Mennonite college in 1909, in the town named after him.
I don't know the next time I'll see him, or if we'll have "a good talk" or not. But I know that's ho I'll always remember him. And it just goes to show, never underestimate where in life you might find a story.