Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Eulogy for My Papa Cookie

A Eulogy for Louis Junior Kaiser
Louis Junior Kaiser, Louie, Son, Brother, Uncle, Nephew, Husband, Pa, Pawd, Dad, Grandpa Kaiser, Great-Grandpa, Lou, Papa, Private First Class, King Louie, Junior, Papa Cookie, Neighbor, Friend.  The man we are here to celebrate today was known by many and had many different titles in his 91 glorious years.

So what do you say about a man who had it all?  He was the oldest son of nine children, he had an older sister and three younger, and he had three younger brothers.  He attended a one room schoolhouse ⅓ of a mile from the family farm before attending high school in Garrison and a semester at Iowa State.  Grandpa fought for his country in World War II as a paratrooper in the Army and loved his country with all of his heart and soul. He raised his children to love and respect God and their country.  He started playing golf at the ripe young age of 70 with the company of his brothers.  He was a man of simple words, but had wit that would sneak up on you.  Grandpa was never a man to put off work until tomorrow that could get done today.   He did the best he could to always keep his word and be there for his family.

He was married to a woman with a beautiful soul for over 60 years, whom he loved and respected deeply.  We always thought Grandma was the mushy one, but he’s shown his softer side with lots of hugs and kisses the past several years.   He and Grandma raised six children, resulting in 15 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.  He loved the land and was especially fond of Oliver tractors, and the beautiful science of the planting and harvest seasons.  This love was built on a solid foundation of farming, for he started when he was 14 years old with a horse-drawn two-row planter, stepping in for his dad who was down for almost year with Malta Fever.  He once said that his most important crop he ever tended, however, was his beloved family.

The name Kaiser goes back a long way.  Grandpa Kaiser stands for a lot of things.  It stands for a man who was so well-loved by his family and friends that he was asked to be Best Man in five weddings.  What do you think of when you hear his name?  It reminds me of freedom, courage, strength, family, faith, and love.  We will certainly not do him any sort of justice in this short message, but I can tell you one thing.  We’re proud.  We’re proud of the man he was, and we are proud of the legacy he has left behind with all of us.  

It’s been almost six years since we lost Grandma, but their love, strength, encouragement, and support lives on in all of us, as we are frequently told from people who knew them.  There are 49 people on this Earth who are direct descendants of the 62 years of marriage and the beautiful life he and Grandma shared together.  Through marriage, we now total 66 people altogether.  He always joked about the fact that his large family was all his fault!  He saw her at a basketball game in a barn and couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He was smitten, she could outrun him, but he didn’t give up.

There are several stories us grandchildren, his children, and his siblings have shared over the last week.  Some of them are not appropriate enough to share with you here, but many of them are, so here are a few.  His sister Barb remembers her big brother allowing her to ride the pony, as long as she stayed behind the barn, away from the house, since Mother said no.  Grandpa’s children were talking about their time with their dad growing up.  He gave them a run for their money when the boys thought he didn’t know how to spin donuts in their farm driveway.  They also told stories of lining up in the kitchen for an ear spitshine with a washcloth on the end of his stubbed finger, laughing about their beet-red, clean ears when he was done.  

When asking the grandchildren what they remembered most, there were so many stories that brought back so many memories.  Hearing WMT radio has us thinking of sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, with the smell of bacon frying and the song of the farm report on the radio when we woke up.  We will remember his championship horsey rides as we held onto the straps of his bibbed overalls and then him bucking us off as giggles filled the room.  We’ll vividly remember him stealing our nose and throwing it out to the pigs, tractor rides, and playing in the buildings, outhouse, and bins at the farm.  We will reminisce often of the many UNO games he let us win, knowing darn well we were looking at his cards in the reflection of his glasses.  We will always wonder how we were so gullible as to believe his “fingers” got stuck in his ears.  We will cling tightly to the smell of their home, filled with the scent of freshly baked cookies, Grandma’s tradition he so graciously carried on.  We will cherish the, “Whaddaya know, Kid” and the big hugs while hiding his toothpick for a kiss goodbye after a visit and a quick “love you, too”.

Some grandpas tell fishing stories; our grandpa told stories of the war and the Westerns he loved, but he also gave countless explanations to the reason he had two missing fingers.  After talking to his sister Barb this weekend, we think we have the “True Story of the Missing Fingers” figured out.  The grandkids remember a toad named Herman living in the basement and Grandpa bringing up the baby piggies for the grandkids to play with.  We’ll never forget the sound of the tick of his pocket watch, the click of the wind, and the sensation of running our hands over the buttons of his bib overalls as we sat in his lap. I’m not sure if we have ever met a person so crazy about gooseberry pie or Planter's peanuts.  When opening them as gifts, Grandpa always said he’d never be able to eat it all, but somehow, he always did the job with the help of a few sons.  The grandchildren also remember some intense games of Battleship, Crap on your Neighbor, and hide-and-seek, won right there in the basement of their home.  We’re sure you will also have no problem remembering his hat always being tipped to the side, and his crooked, beautiful smile.  

Our grandparents were always patient with us as we stopped by to invade their house before or after practice, waiting for that next event at the school.  It was a beautiful thing to see him watching with such humbleness as he enjoyed sporting events of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He even waited patiently for 40 years for a Kaiser to finally win a medal at the state wrestling tournament.  We also reminisce about more recent favorites like watching him take part in ravenous pillow fights with the great-grands, still using the bucking-bronco voice we remember hearing as children to rile up our kids.  Feeding our dogs table scraps is usually a no-no, but when King Louie did it, we let it slide.  Even with all of the ways he was able to show us how strong he was, he still wasn’t afraid to show his emotion.  We can remember talking with him about Grandma several times and he’d say, “My eyes are leaking, again!”  His tight grip holding our hands the last few days is also something we will hold very dearly, a treasure so simple, but worth so much.   We also hold a special place in our heart for the survivor in him.  He was always so proud to take part in the survivors’ lap at the Benton County Relay for Life. Even though he didn’t think he could make it last year, he enjoyed that lap and was proud of his accomplishment with his youngest grandson by his side.  

We can also tell you a little bit about that reunion we know happened on Sunday evening in heaven.  We joked that we knew grandma baked a fresh batch of cookies or a gooseberry pie, had freshly painted nails, the brightest red lipstick, blushed cheeks, donned her most beautiful smile, and tackled him to give him the biggest bear-hug imaginable.  He’s probably now holding hands with Grandma, playing cards with his family and hers, and catching them up with the great things happening on Earth with those family members missing him so deeply right now.  

We hope that when you think of Grandpa, you see his crooked hat and his beautiful smile, and that your heart is happy.  We are so blessed that we have had so many wonderful years with this special, special man.  We only hope to live up to the kind of life he instilled in us.  A life filled with freedom, courage, strength, family, faith, and love.  Thank you for helping us celebrate his beautiful life.  

Until we meet again, “Love ya, Kid.”