by Erik Hawkinson

The feelings are like it just happened yesterday. But it happened almost two years ago. My grandfather died of a stroke. He smoked a pipe for as long as I can remember. I can still smell the smoke of the tobacco as if I just walked into a room he was in. I can hear him hit the pipe upon the hearth to clean it out—just to repack it again.

My grandfather was a very intelligent man. He was a strong man, even though, as I remember him, he was not a big man. He had the face of a man from whom you would take orders and never disobey them.

Zenos at the Helm

His name was Zenos, but my dad and his brothers called him Zeus (never to his face!!). In a way, he put out that kind of feeling. He was a man I looked up to very much. He was one of those men who never really said, “I love you,” nor did I, but in some way he knew it, as I knew he loved me.

So far he sounds like a very harsh man, but he was one of the best grandpas anyone could have. He would chase the kids around the house and tickle us until we burst. I loved my grandfather very much, and I miss him dearly.

He went through World War II in the Navy and was on a troop transport in the Pacific as the gunner. He told stories to me and my cousin about hearing kamikaze planes diving past his boat.

He taught history at North Park College in Chicago. He was a very, very good teacher. Even at the funeral, I had students of his come up to me and tell me stories about how hard he was, and how stern he was, and how everyone wanted to be in Professor Hawkinson’s class. He knew the essence of history and how to teach it.

I still remember the exact point where I was when I received the word that he had passed away. I did not cry for some time, and I had no idea why. My parents went down to Chicago to set things up while I stayed at home for awhile. One day, I stayed back from school and I remember sitting in the sun room and just breaking down, crying like I never have before. I did not care, nor do I now, if men cry. Yes, some things are trivial but when you will never see someone whom you love very dearly again, it hurts; it hurts badly.

I have always been a Christian and was born with a Bible in my hand. My father is a pastor and so is my uncle and several other people in my family, but I have never questioned my faith as much as I did when my grandfather passed on. Did he go to heaven? Or, did all that he had locked away in that brilliant brain of his become worm food? Are we that fragile?

No matter what happened to him, wherever he went, I someday will follow. As Queen Gertrude, in Hamlet, said, “Every thing that lives must die passing through life into eternity.” I like that.

As I walked into the room where his casket was, I saw him, dressed in his golf clothes (a fleece and cords) looking…well…happy; at least that is what I saw.

I really don’t think I will completely get over my grandpa’s death. There is so much I hoped I would learn from him. He passed a great deal of his knowledge on to my dad; I hope I can continue with this shared knowledge and add my own so, when I tell my kids or grandkids, the story will be longer.

I am not mad at the Lord or anyone. I am glad for the time that I had to know him. He was a great man, and I know I will never forget him. As far as I am concerned, he will stay with me until I pass on into eternity. I love my grandfather and, wherever he is, I hope he is doing well and is proud of me.