If I’m going to start a series about people I admire, who best to start with than the man I admire most?
For all my life I have called my paternal grandparents Oma and Opa because my grandmother is German. They have always been my favorite people, and I especially look up to Opa. I recently took a week of leave in my old home of Indiana, and while I was there, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with them. When I was visiting, Opa gave me a flash drive that had some really old family pictures that he had scanned, a slideshow with a lot of clever sayings and interesting facts, and an 87-page memoir of his life from the time he was a child up to the present. Today I finally had time to sit down and read it, and let me tell you–it is a fascinating story.
Here’s the short version of where Opa came from: Opa grew up the youngest of five children living in a tiny shack with no electricity or running water. From there, he joined the U.S. Air Force, met my Oma in Germany, got out of the air force and Germany, went back to be with Oma and the kids, brought them back to America, worked his way up to become vice president of a bank, owned several rental houses, and retired at the age of 51 to take a six month trek up to Alaska. He sold all of his properties in town and now lives on a nice 17 acre estate in Brown County, Indiana.
I admire Opa because he has all the traits I want to have. He is capable, optimistic, and wise. He has experienced the gamut of poverty and wealth, he has traveled to nearly every state in the U.S., and he has been all over Europe. He tells the best anecdotes, gives the best advice on everything from smart investing to dealing with family situations, and he can fix just about anything. He is modest, but confident, and frugal, but not cheap, affable and generous. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with him because he is fun-loving and always makes people laugh. Most people dread mixing their friends and grandparents, but I actually took Oma and Opa with me when I went to Lori-oke with the Shenanigan Girls (that blog is coming soon).
What does Opa do now? He has lived in the house in Brown County for over 15 years now, and he still does all the upkeep on all of that property. Oma likes to start home improvement projects, but he always ends up finishing them. In recent years, Oma’s memory has been slipping, but he has been taking care of her, checking to make sure she remembers to eat meals and take medications. She forgets her English a lot more than she used to, but he usually understands her German. Opa recently bought himself a banjo and started taking bluegrass lessons. I’m learning to play bluegrass on my ukulele so I can jam with him the next time I make it home.