Grandpa Earl

I lost my grandfather today, 1/11/18. He was 96, and a great man who fought in WWII, stormed Normandy at Omaha Beach. When he returned home in 1945, he returned to work at the engineering firm where he started years before as a courier. He ended up President, Chairman, and majority owner of the company. He lost his wife, my grandma, 19 years ago. Far too soon to lung cancer, she never smoked. He did, outside. They always had a fire in the fireplace, and we lived close enough that outside, or at times in elementary school (where I could see their house from the music room), I could smell wood burning, and I always assumed it was coming from their house. I still do.

My grandparents had a pool table in the basement, and I remember finally growing tall enough for my view to change from the gray resin belly, wooden rails, and leather-fringed pockets, to a brilliant aqua sea of felt, brightly lit by a shop light. Almost illuminating those many different colored balls. My dad, brother, uncles, and occasionally grandpa would play pool, and when we could see over it, we would be allowed to play too. Sometimes 8-ball, sometimes 9-ball, and once in a while, pea pool. one of the accessories was a leather jug which contained black peas with white numbers. Pour out a numbered pea, and take turns shooting until you sink the corresponding-numbered ball.

I have a shot of my son and my brother’s son playing on that same table decades later. It brought back a lot of memories.

A few years ago, when Grandpa could no longer live in the house on his own, I got a call from my brother, asking if I wanted a memento from the house as they were preparing it to sell. “Sure, how about the pool peas?”

At Christmas, Grandpa sent Christmas cards with checks for all of his family as always, with a note my dad helped write, encouraging us to use the money to do something special and remember him. I had always wanted a Yamaaki pot from the 1st generation patriarch, Akitsugu; the one with the eggplant chop containing 3 characters. I don’t know why. When I saw this one, it reminded me of the pool peas jug, and it had the eggplant stamp, just peeking out from the bottom. So that’s what I bought with my grandpa’s last Christmas gift. Fitting on several levels.

My ume is in full bloom today.

I’ll always admire, love, and miss my grandpa. Rest In Peace.

Earl Ramsay Van Fleet, May 9, 1921-January 11, 2018.


14 thoughts on “Grandpa Earl

  1. Thank you for letting me into a intimate corner of your life-so poignantly written, so bright with memories and love. Your delicate heart reveals just why we endeavor, thanks again and I offer my sympathy in your loss.

  2. My condolences Brian, he sounds like a wonderful man. It is our responsibility to carry the memory, and stories of these great men. They have done so much to give us the beautiful world we live in.

  3. My condolences on yours and your families loss. Sounds like he was a great man and be well missed. Great memories you shared, he will always be in your heart.

  4. Brian, I am so sorry to hear of your family’s loss. From your comments, he must have led a fruitful life. Like Judy said, you will always have great memories of him.

  5. You will treasure that pot for ever.. I have a painting that I have had for 55 years that came from money from my Grandmother. Thank you so much for sharing. Melvin

  6. I’m very sorry for your loss. What a gift it has been for you and your family to have had him with you for such a long time. Certainly that pot is a treasure. The greater treasure may be the memories of him you will carry forever…

  7. Thanks Brian for posting. When a little time goes by, tell us some more stories about him. He sounds like a great man.

  8. My sincere condolences Brian. That was a great story. He made many sacrifices and was part of the greatest generation and for that I am truly grateful.

  9. All my condolences and thank you for sharing.
    There’s a common point in your stories and your life. The love of men and the love of tree.
    From the good care and attention we receive, we grow well.
    I read once that losing a long owned tree was like losing a member of your family.
    You reminded me that my trees are also a reflection of the love I have for my beloved ones.

  10. Have not been on line past couple of weeks, sorry to hear Brian. I can tell you have good memories of him and living close to them. Our family will continue to live through such good times

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