Friday, July 15, 2011

The Jones family loses its last Grandpa

This has nothing to do with the world of Golf maintenance. I don't think my Grandpa ever once set foot on a golf course.

But Grandpa Nick passed away last week. I was one of his pallbearers. Grandpa was a good guy. While not as big a part of my life as my dad (who died of brain cancer at age 62 two years ago) or my mom, he was an important part of my life.

This is the tribute I wrote to my Grandpa last week... my cousin was kind enough to read it at his service. I thought I'd post it here, because even though Grandpa didn't golf, he still helped me get where I am today.


Sad news. Grandpa Nick passed away last night. He was 84. A long life. These last few years had been hard on him, so it's a relief that Grandpa is no longer suffering from his many ailments he was stricken with in his last years.

Grandpa was a first-generation Mexican-American, a WW II vet, a 40-year Boeing employee, a member of a biker gang, a Jayhawk fan and most important to me, my friend. He absolutely loved Evey and my wife.

Grandpa didn't talk much. He was a quiet, stoic guy. He worked on his yard a lot. Watched a lot of car racing, football (hated the Cowboys), college basketball, boxing, a little pro wrestling on occasion. He was the first guy I knew to buy one of those giant satellites they sold in the 1980s -- you know the ones that were like 15-feet wide? We about spun that thing off it's pole trying to get Wrestlemania 2. It's still in Grandma's back yard.

The place you'd see Grandpa most often, especially from about 1982 to 1994, was sitting on the back deck right next to the sliding glass door in a dilapidated lawn chair, no shirt, old blue jeans, Mickey's in his hand. He had just finished working in the yard. And you could sit there and chat with him if you wanted. But he probably liked it better if you just sat there in silence with him and watched the grass grow.

When Grandpa did laugh, he laughed hard, and his entire bald head shook.

The thing I think defines Nick Gomez, the thing I would want people to know about him, is that, if not for him, there would be generations of Mexicans, young and old, full-blooded, half-blooded, practically gringo -- who would have never made it in Wichita. He was the trailblazer. He got a job at Boeing and he stuck it out. He knew what work meant. He had three kids, and those kids had kids -- some more than others. Some of those kids needed help -- some more than others. And whenever they came to Grandpa, he helped them out. He helped his friends out. Grandpa didn't say much, and that included the word "no." You needed help? He helped. You needed work on your car? He worked on your car. You need to buy a car? Let's see how we can buy a car.

I don't know how often the favor was returned for Grandpa. The last time I saw him... hell, the last five times I saw him, I thought that would be the last time I ever saw him. But this last time, I was pretty sure. So I told him as I shook his hand, "Grandpa, I want you to know I love you, and my family loves you. I'm proud of you. And most of all, thank you for everything you've done for this family. There are a lot of people who wouldn't be where they are now if it wasn't for you."

Grandpa just nodded as he got ready to go back to sleep.

Grandpa never talked much.

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