Grandpa Barn

My Grandpa Stuehrenberg passed over the weekend. He was a fantastic grandpa and brought so much joy to my childhood. As things go, his death wasn’t simple or quick, so it’s with a portion of relief that I mourn him. The rest of my family has flown back to Nebraska for the funeral, and while I don’t regret the decision, it would have been amazing to see the turnout. Not only did he have an immense family (my mom had 7 siblings), but as an athlete, soldier, milk man, insurance salesman, and county commissioner, he kind of knew everyone. He was so outgoing and interested that a 5 minute trip to the store rarely wrapped up in 20. All throughout my childhood, we’d be driving around town, or even dozens of miles away from town on some empty farm road and he’d run in to someone he knew. And he didn’t just know of them, he knew things about them, like they crops they grew, how many kids they had, what their plight was and he seemed to empathize with most of them.

Grandpa Barn (we nicknamed our grandparents after memorable objects – can you pronounce Stuehrenberg?) was a child at heart, I think, and that’s what made him an excellent grapndpa. I have so many fond memories, but I left him with one on Friday. My uncle Bill was kind enough to hold the phone to his ear for me, and who knows how many other of his children, his great grandchildren, and possibly even some of his great-great grandchildren. I recalled a failed hunting trip he took me on one fall day where we took the brown ford out to a wooded section of land outside town on a farm of someone he was friends with. We were hunting quail and spent some time traipsing through the scrub until Jesse (his english setter) flushed out some quail. He would let me shoot first, and if (when) I missed, he’d quickly shoot the bird, and Jesse would retrieve. We ended up with two birds, but he knew I wanted to shoot some more, so we set up discarded bottles and cans and he let me have my fun shooting garbage. We had intended on building a fire to make some hotdogs, but given the time and wind, decided to instead eat the cold hotdogs on the drive back. They tasted fantastic, which I’m sure had more to do with the experience than the actual dogs.

One of the last things I said to him was to thank him for loving me and accepting me, even when I showed up with hair down to my mid-back, or with what many have called a terrorist beard. A haircut and shave were two things he took very seriously, but he never let that get in the way of spending time together. Maybe he understood the importance of the time, or maybe he just knew that every single cousin would make fun of the hippie for him.

Recent milestones

In the past week, the following milestones have been reached:

  • Ella asked “Are we there” in the car for the first time
  • Madeline found her voice – at 5am
  • Michelle turned 30
  • Ella asked “Are we there” for the 100th time
  • Madeline sucked on her thumb, in ernest
  • Michelle went to bed without taking out her contacts
  • Ella golfed for the first time
  • Madeline slept without a blanket
  • Michelle woke up and could read the alarm clock without glasses


Michelle and I occasionally forget that we have a toddler and infant. During those moments, we decide to do things like install a patio in the front yard; something we’d planned on for next year. Still, the idea of sitting in the front yard this summer, sipping a beer or gin & tonic while interacting with the neighborhood was a big enough attraction that we forged ahead. Saturday morning after Ella’s tumbling class, she, Michelle and I piled in to my grandpa’s truck and went to pick up stone from Oregon Decorative Rock on Columbia Boulevard. Ultimately we required one of the experts on site to provide a tie-breaking decision. Even though it wasn’t my preferred choice, I couldn’t find any fault in his logic regarding the weight and therefor cost of Michelle’s preferred stone. (900 lbs worth)

Once we had the stone on site, we dug up the rough patio area (below, marked with a hose), then shoveled the sod and a few inches of soil in to the pickup. Somehow the area ended up larger than we’d started with, so the truck was quite full. While I was heading out to Wood Waste Management (awesome), the spare tire on the truck popped off and started draggimg behind the me. I pulled to a stop, crawled under the bed, and discovered that the spare is like 110% the size of the designated spot and my shoveling arms were too tired to lift the spare over the latch. After several attempts with deteriorating results, I used the shovel and rake as opposing levers and was finally able to get the spare on, got my soaked self the rest of the way to the recycler, unloaded the sod and dirt, filled up with sand, and got home.

Less than 30 seconds after starting to shovel the sand, it started raining hard. It was Midwest hard, so I figured it wouldn’t last. I kept shoveling, then it turned to hail, and the wind came up. I bolted for the vestibule and we watched as strange torrent of rain fell on Portland. Storm gusts accompnied the rain, and it moved through the tall firs threatening to snap the giants with its unusual directions. Then, it was over. I changed my shirt and got back to shoveling sand. Michelle and I then placed stones haphazardly only to find we were about 4-5 stones short. It was quittin’ time though, so we grabbed dinner at Laurelwood and slumped in our seats through dinner.

The next morning I ventured out to get those extra stones, and once 10am rolled around, I started scoring pieces with a circular saw and masonry blade, then used a chisel to snap the pieces trying to make the edges look as natural as possible. This went on until around 1pm when we finally finished cutting and then had to finish up leveling, pounding, and sanding. By 2pm we were finished, but cleanup required finding a place for the extra 1/3 ton of sand, most of which ended up on the side of the garage “for future use.”

Being a glorious weekend, it was actually great to be outside. Ella spent much of it riding her trike down the sidewalk and back, and yelling “Hi Eric” or “Hi Erin” to the neighbors across the street. It was delightful, and we ended up with a patio that we can enjoy over the summer while engaging the neighborhood.