Sunday, February 17

The Best Grandpa Ever

Everyone believes that their grandpa is the best. But my Grandpa French has truly been the most wonderful grandfather a girl could ask for. I love him so much.
My Grandpa: Charles B. French
On the old boat...going for a trip on Lake Winnipesaukee with Grandpa!
Grandpa French always has been my favorite grandfather. He is the only one I've really known but he was always my favorite. He alone has taught me more than I think anyone else has. Because of him, not only am I blessed with the ability to draw well, but I excel in English and science. He used to draw animals in pencil and have us try to copy them. He has a high appreciation for artwork and always displays our sketches on his very busy fridge. He has taught me a lot about our family history, particularly concerning our relation to the famous oil painter, Frank French, and to famous sculptor Daniel Chester French, who carved a number of statues in Boston area as well as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Minuteman Statue...carved by my relative, Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French's memorial which we visited. 1850-1931
On Grandpa's back porch

In Grandpa French's old van...ready to go fishing!!
I am tremendously interested in my heritage and family history because of the things Grandpa has taught me. Grandpa French is also a wonderful example of a follower of Jesus Christ. He has a Christ-like love for his family and for those around him. He lives with integrity and has taught me the value of hard work. Even though I did not always enjoy it at the time, some of my favorite memories are working around his yard and home with him. I remember raking leaves in the fall with Payson and Grandpa and sometimes my parents. We helped him with gardening, weeding, trimming plants, cutting the grass, and all kinds of other outdoor chores. Doing these things each year helped increase my love for nature and the outdoors. It also increased my love for his beautiful home and property. 
A shot I took of Grandpa's yard once
I want to own it someday because it is such a wonderfully secluded area with all kinds of natural beauty. We used to catch frogs in the brook and throw rocks into it. 
One side of the brook at Grandpa'
We used to try to build tree houses in the trees in yard. In the winter we would wander through the woods following deer tracks and looking for animals. We learned so much about different animal species from Grandpa. Most years he kept chickens in a shed by the garden and then eventually in an old bob-house. I loved when he would take me to Agway with him and we would get to pick out the little chicks that he would bring home and raise. I remember when I was very little, we were out feeding the chickens in the back yard and one of them came over and pecked my finger and made it bleed. I was a little bit afraid of them after that, at least when they came after me. But Grandpa taught me a lot about chickens--their anatomy, as well as about their eggs. Collecting the eggs was the best part about him having the chickens, except the smell of their nests was absolutely terrible. But we would bring the eggs into Grandpa and sometimes he would make fresh scrambled eggs with them right away.
Another picture of Grandpa's front green and beautiful
Grandpa French, fishing on a dock on Lake Winnipesaukee

Payson, fishing with Grandpa
Another fishing trip with Grandpa!
Checking out the fish we caught with Grandpa!
Donovan and Grandpa's catches
The best!!!!
Grandpa's house always seemed to have a lot of animals growing up. There were a few cats (most were Andy's) like the gray tabby, Schwarzenegger, and the shy black cat, Tivy. They also had Sandy, short for Sandrietta, the nicest golden retriever there ever was. She was such a good, mellow dog and we were so sad when she died. I remember when Grandpa had us help him give her baths in a silver tub in the backyard. If I remember correctly, she didn't really enjoy those. At various times, Grandpa also had snakes, lizards, iguanas, rats, and mice living in big tanks at his house. We thought it was really cool that he had had so many types of pets. Grandpa also had plenty of squirrels living close to the house. He was always very nice to them and instead of poisoning or killing them, he would trap the squirrels in metal cages and then drive them some miles away and set them free. 
This pretty golden retriever looks pretty close to what Sandy looked like
Birds on the line (female cardinal and sparrow)
Grandpa French also loves birds. He has lots of bird-feeders on his porch and every season, he has a huge variety of birds that visit right by the kitchen window. Some of the best ones are hummingbirds, cardinals, bluejays, purple finches, gold finches, robins, and chickadees. I learned a lot about these different bird species from Grandpa French, who owns several bird guides. Speaking of books, Grandpa French is a collector of both books and antiques. I love antiques and books because of him. He owns such a vast collection of great books that it has made me want to have a library in my future home one day. Like him, I love reading because I love learning new things. I want to acquire as much knowledge as possible before I leave this earth because I know it is one of the few precious things that I will be able to take with me into the next life. Like I mentioned, I also collect antiques because of Grandpa. I particularly liked colored glass bottles and antique furniture because I like to consider their story. I always wonder about who used them and whose homes they have been in. 
Grandpa's mantle. Lots of antiques!
Grandpa brought us to a lot of antique stores where he both bought and sold items. My favorite one was Bertha Mae's (or B. Mae's) where he had several stations with great books and other things for sale. To this day, I love browsing through antique stores because they contain so many beautiful things from the past with hundreds of stories, which is so interesting and incredible to me. I love the smell of antiques, too. Across from B. Mae's is a long-running restaurant called Sawyer's. Grandpa and Nana brought us there for onion rings, BLTs, lobster rolls, and ice cream quite often in the summer. We had a lot of good conversations there.
Sitting across from Nana and Grandpa at Sawyer's
I love when Grandpa takes my brothers and me fishing on the lake in his boat or to a nice, quiet pond or river. I love fishing so much because of him. I thought it was so cool that I knew how to clean a fish properly and all about its body parts. I love eating fish because of Grandpa, and I learned that the tail, when fried, is the most sought-after part. I love water and being near it. Not only is it peaceful, but I now know so much about the different ecosystems that I find joy in studying and observing it. I love when Grandpa takes us birdwatching and we bring picnic lunches that Nana makes for us. I remember him teaching me about the flight patterns of different birds and learning about their vast range of wingspans. Hiking with him is always so interesting; we learn so much from him just by talking and asking questions. I love when he would go on field trips with us to fun science places for school. I was always so proud that everyone knew my grandpa and wanted him to come with us. (I think that helped the teachers to like me more, too, since they would always ask incredulously, "Chuck French is your grandpa?") When we were little, we went caterpillar hunting in the milkweed patches around the middle and high school. I used to think caterpillars were so gross except the distinctly unique monarch caterpillars because those are the ones we would collect and keep in jars so we could watch as they changed into a cocoon and then a butterfly.

Monarch caterpillars...the only type of caterpillar I would want to get near
When we were even littler, Grandpa used to gather all of the cousins in the living room at nighttime and turn out the lights except for a few candles and we would all go on a "lion hunt" together. He would tell us a story about us walking through the woods and being on the lookout for bears and lions. It was such a fun activity when we were young. He would make sound effects and make sure we weren't too scared. I loved when he did those special stories with us. He also told the grandkids stories about our parents growing up. I liked hearing about the time he and the girls were chased by a bear while fishing. And when poor Carolyn (or was it Dianne?) got caught by the hook while fly fishing. He has a lot of great memories. I remember snowshoeing with my class up a mountain to do a fire building contest and I already knew how to build the perfect fire because of my grandpa. (Plus we had practiced beforehand ;). Having bonfires in his backyard in the winter was the best. He would let us help him build the fire and we would all collect lots of tinder and firewood together. Then Grandpa would find some living branches (we could tell because they were green inside) and carve a marshmallow or hotdog-roasting stick for us with his pocketknife. I always loved how he used his pocketknife to carve sticks, cut up apples, clean fish, and a number of other things. He is the reason I always keep a little army knife handy. I always liked when we were sitting by the fire and he would put one foot up on his knee and use the side of his hiking boot as a make-shift plate. I still think that is such a great idea. We would sit on logs and plastic chairs around the fire--all of the cousins and aunt and uncles--and talk and tell stories as we roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. When it was too cold, we would get the fireplace going and roast marshmallows in the living room. Also in the winter, Grandpa would bring us ice fishing, which was fun but a little bit scary (I was always afraid of falling through the ice). We would also go sledding down the steep hill on the side of the house. All of the cousins would take turns and sled all the way to the driveway. We also built huge snow forts in the driveway. They were so big that our moms were worried they would collapse on us. But they were awesome and we loved going to Grandpa's house because it gave us an opportunity to be together and play.
At my high school awards night the day before graduation
After graduation at Meadowbrook!
Grandpa also took us star-gazing during the summer. We would drive to a scenic overlook off the freeway and park our cars and sit in camp chairs with blankets. We especially liked to do this when we knew a comet would be going by. While we sat there, we drank hot chocolate and Grandpa taught us about the constellations like the Big and Little Dipper, Orion, and others. We loved star-gazing with Grandpa French. Sleepovers at Grandpa and Nana's were both extremely exciting and kind of scary. We would sleep on the pull-out couch in the living room and were always frightened that someone would look into the dark windows on the back porch and kidnap us. Luckily, Grandpa always left a little light on over the kitchen sink and then there was Nana's fish tank which gave off a blue glow. The fish were a lot of fun for us to look at and to feed. Grandpa and Nana always bought a variety of fishes but my favorites were the little fluorescent ones that glowed blue and red. Grandpa had an old gumball machine in his living room that took pennies. He used to joke that that was his savings. Of course, he also had a jar of pennies nearby for us to load into the machine. We had a lot of bubblegum blowing contests. Grandpa taught us a lot of cool and random things, too. He and Nana have a vase with peacock feathers in it and he taught us how to balance the long feathers on our fingers by staring at one spot on the feather. He also taught us how to see images in the "Magic Eye" 3-D illusion books. It took a while, but it was something that we never forgot how to do once we learned it. Grandpa also loves sports. In particular, he loves baseball. He owns lots of catcher's mitts and he would play catch with Payson and me on the front lawn during the spring. We both got pretty great at catching because of all our practice. We both played baseball and softball in elementary school (that is, until I got hit in the mouth with a softball and had to have a root canal on my front tooth...since then I've been less fond of the game) because of Grandpa. He always goes to all of the cousin's games. He came to my tennis matches throughout middle school and high school, as well as soccer games and cross country meets. He is hugely supportive of all of us, no matter what we choose to do.

Grandpa is always teaching us. We used to play the card game "Memory" when we were little and match up the pictures. Our favorite set was the one with Disney characters. He and Nana always play lots of games with us. They are always willing to play Sequence, Yahtzee, and many card games including several ones that they cleverly made up. Because we have always lived in the same town as him, he has played a huge role in my growing up. I loved the year that we went to his house for breakfast every day after early-morning seminary. He always makes the very best scrambled eggs, French toast (because it is named after our family of course ;), pancakes, lady fingers, and my most favorite--crispy bacon. That is the only way I eat bacon now. Even though I don't drink coffee, I love the smell of it because it reminds me of Grandpa and Nana French's kitchen. 
Card games at Andy and Molly's house
Playing poker at camp :)
Family time at the cabin
Food for all of us!!
Grandpa and Nana have been the best at keeping our family close together. My favorite memories are the weekends we stayed in a family cabin around Easter. We played family games like homemade Survivor and indoor mini-golf and we celebrated lots of birthdays together. We had a huge Easter egg hunt and all of the cousins slept in a room together. As the family grew, Grandpa and Nana found a bigger camp for us to stay in and we filled more and more rooms. Grandpa of course took the grandkids fishing and canoeing, and we played badminton and volleyball as a family. For Nana and Grandpa's 50th anniversary, we tried out a new campsite in Maine where we surprised them with a big celebration. We played "kick the can" at night and set off fireworks. We always have the best time when the whole family gets together because of the way Grandpa and Nana raised their children. I love how tough our family is and how none of us mind roughing it for a few days for the benefit of being together as a family. 
Pam and Bob's wedding day! I love Grandpa's smile here :)

The whole family (minus Dalin :/ I didn't know him yet )
These are all things I WILL teach and do with my own children as they grow up. I feel so blessed to have had such an advantage over my classmates because I had a grandpa who taught me everything first. I am going to make sure that my children know that I learned all of these things from my Grandpa French who was a 7th grade science teacher and a vice principal. He is always teaching others. I am trying to follow in his footsteps by taking lots of pictures to record family memories and making amazing breakfasts every day (though I still need to work on this one...maybe when I have kids I'll get better at it). I can't wait to bring my children fishing and camping, and have bonfires and go boating on the lake. I can't wait to teach them about nature and different plants and types of animals. Most of all, I can't wait to instill in them a love for family like my grandfather has in me. He is the most influential person in my life and I am so filled with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for letting me be a part of his family on this earth. I know that everyone probably feels this way, but I know the truth--I am Grandpa French's favorite grandchild. I love him so much that it upsets me to think of being without him for a long period of time, but I know I will see him again no matter what and that we will all have a great reunion one day with all of our family members. I am thankful that he has been involved in the major part of my life as I grew up and I am continually trying to live like him. He really is the best grandpa out there. If you don't believe me, you should re-read this. ;)
My wonderful, wonderful family

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