Grandpa

My grandfather, Tom Lowder, died on July 9 of this year. He was born August 14, 1923, in Lake West, Oklahoma. He grew up the youngest of seven during the Great Depression, losing his father when he was only 2-years-old. He fought in World War II, earning three bronze battle stars. He raised five kids, while working for the Sohio Oil Company for 43 years, retiring in 1985.

He was a success professionally and personally. He never went to college, but he worked his way up to regional superintendent of the Sohio Oil Company. When he retired, they named a building after him.

He worked hard and played hard. He loved his family and life more than anything. Two of his other passions were music and tending his yard, both of which he indulged to his heart’s content after he retired and in his spare time before that. I like to think I inherited my love of music from him. Many people in our family love music, but he LOVED it. And so do I. Some of his favorites were the Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, and Neil Diamond. My earliest memories are to a soundtrack of Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, the Pointer Sisters, Wham. Grandpa had the most eclectic musical taste of any grandfather I ever knew. He loved that I liked some of his favorites, like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and would willingly lend me CDs or make copies. I always felt proud when I liked something he liked or introduced him to something new he liked. In fact, one of my proudest moments was when he told me the CD Chris and I made as a gift for out-of-town guests at our wedding was “great”. That made my day.

We also shared a love of Humphrey Bogart and old movies in general. I gave him a copy of “The African Queen” for one of his birthdays. Again, it was a proud moment, because he was hard to buy for. He invited me over to watch it with him and we watched it together on his big screen TV. I felt very lucky that, even as a college kid, I still had interests in common with Grandpa and enjoyed hanging out with him.

He was renowned for his yard, which had beautiful azaleas and crepe myrtles. He was very protective of it, to the point where most of the family was afraid to park in the driveway for fear of accidentally driving over the grass! I never risked it until I was in college.

He was meticulous about his appearance, never appearing for breakfast until he was completely dressed and ready for the day. In fact, my mom said that they had to wait to open their presents on Christmas morning until he was dressed. While I do not get dressed first thing, I like to think I take forever getting ready because I take after him. πŸ™‚

He always made me feel so special. He was always so excited to see me and even at the end, his face still lit up when I came in the room. I talked to him on the phone for the last time three days before he died. Even though he was so weak, he still said, “Helloooo, Sara” as cheerily as he ever had.

I know he was proud of me, but I want so much to live up to being his granddaughter. I want to live life with the gusto he did, to enjoy it as much as he did. To have such a positive impact on so many lives. He is so loved and respected, so greatly missed.

I learned so much from him and I am more determined than ever to make him proud. In honor of Grandpa, I am going to love life, live it fearlessly, and never let anything break me. He never let anything break him, not the Depression, or World War II. Not even having his wife and half of his children precede him in death. He kept going through it all and his smile always came back.

I am grateful I had him for 32 years. He was at my graduations and my wedding. He knew my son Max and was there for his first Christmas and his first birthday. He knew there was going to be another baby. I am so grateful for all of that.

I wish my son and his new sibling had a chance to play with Grandpa on the floor. I wish they had known what it was like to nestle into the crook of his arm in the red leather armchair and watch the evening news and Looney Tunes. I wish he wasn’t gone.

But every time I sing, he lives.

Every time my nephew Thomas dances to Neil Diamond, he lives.

Every time I look at my son’s face, he lives.

Every time azaleas bloom, he lives.

Every time a family member retells one of Grandpa’s corny jokes, he lives.

I am the granddaughter of an extraordinary man. For the first 14 years of my life, he was a father to me as well as a grandfather. Thank you so much for your humor, your grace, and your zest for life, Grandpa. Thank you for the example you set and for your love. Thank you for everything.

Grandpa as a little boy

Grandpa as a young man

A professional photo with my grandmother. I used to stare at this for hours as a little girl.

One of Grandpa's favorite poses

Posing on the boat at Kentucky Lake

I love his smile in this one.

Leaning on Grandma

With my mom

Enjoying music with Uncle Bill and Mom

With me as a baby

Playing with me on the floor

Happy to see my Grandpa

Telling Santa (Uncle Ben) what he wants for Christmas. It was usually his two front teeth. πŸ™‚

Celebrating his catch with Uncle Don

With my brother Chase in the red leather armchair

Cutting the cake with Tiny at their wedding reception given by the family after they eloped.

With me at my high school graduation. I don't remember why he had the neck brace.

With Chris and me at our wedding

With Max at his first Christmas

With Max at his first birthday party

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1 Comment

  1. Mom said,

    August 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Oh, how I wish he were still here. Thanks for putting it into words so well.


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