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.