Emma June Grosskopf column

Right about 2 years ago, I applied for this job.

I emailed Mr. Jim King a resume and a link to my cringe-worthy online portfolio, wrapped up neatly in a little email that probably had 15 exclamation points in it.

What? How else was I supposed to properly communicate my excitement, if not with exclamation points?

Well, Jim called me and we had a little chat. He wanted me to come in for an in-person interview.

I told him that it would have to wait, because I was getting ready for my Grandpap’s 95th birthday party.

Jim didn’t mind waiting.

Grandpap passed away in December, and with Covid numbers crawling higher and higher, many members of my extended family couldn’t travel to attend the funeral. I was lucky to be able to be there myself.

My grandfather, who loved a good party, set aside a bit of money for a big bash when he died.

Sort of like a wake, minus the casket in the living room. I don’t know NORMAL wake etiquette, but I’m guessing that normal wakes don’t have guests walking around in clothes they picked out of the deceased’s closet.

Grandpap’s did.

Normal wakes probably don’t have pictures of the deceased’s ancestors and in-laws hanging in the bathroom and the pantry. Grandpap’s did.

Normal wakes probably don’t have coolers upon coolers of beer in the garage, with a man named Bill Grosskopf grumbling about his broken icemaker during the fiesta.

Grandpap’s did.

(To be fair, we had a lot of help with ice. People bought bags and brought them to us, which was wonderful. Grandpap wouldn’t have wanted us to drink warm beer.)

I think the idea of “family” differs from person to person, but it’s always amazing to me to see such a large extended family come together for the purpose of just that: being together.

And it’s hard for me to conceive that other families do this, but I read all of the community letters that the Review publishes. I see when family reunions happen. I see how many people gather for these parties.

And no, those parties probably don’t have my great-grandmother’s teenage portrait hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

But each family has its own weirdness and excitement, and for my own family, there really isn’t a better time to celebrate the weirdness than at a belated “wake” for my grandfather.

Last weekend would have been his 97th birthday.

He’d have loved the party we had for him. He’d have loved the potato salad and the chicken and the many, many appetizers that various family members rolled out.

He’d have loved the leftovers even more.

He’d have sat out on the back deck with a glass of wine, probably, visiting with everyone and being entertained that people were wearing shirts that came from his closet.

He may not have been THERE, but he was there.

And I feel lucky to have been able to celebrate him with my large, weird, excitable family.

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