Last week I had a chance to remember Clement Joe Slowey, my grandfather. Here is a picture that shows a couple things I loved about him.
Notice his smile and his wave. Classic Grampa Joe. When my family would come to visit, he always had that smile and that same closed-finger wave. Looking at this picture I can almost imagine I am approaching him and hearing him say his patented, “ho hoooOOO!” I felt warm all over when I heard it—his wordless expression was a sign that he was excited for our arrival.
Grampa Joe always seemed to move young to me. He was almost, oh, I don’t know, spritely for an older man, perhaps a function of his height (he was about five foot seven), or more likely, a result of his energy. He was an avid reader, inventor of a board game, a birdwatcher, a storyteller, a banana bread baker, and the most sincere giver of prayers I ever heard. He always began his prayers by talking to God as if He himself were in the room. “God,” he’d say in a colloquial tone, “it sure is nice for us to be together…”
Time softened Grampa Joe. Toward the end of his life he would take me aside and speak to me one on one, grabbing me in a one-armed bear hug, bringing me close to his eyes, and telling me how proud he was of me and my brothers. And then he’d get misty-eyed and tell me again.
And so this last week my brother Craig, whose special relationship with Gramps deserves more time than I can offer here, got into the warm water of the San Diego Temple baptismal font. My father joined him to serve as proxy for my grandfather. And so, as Mormons do, my brother baptized my father in behalf of my grandfather. It is our tradition, a Mormon belief, that all need baptism and that all can accept baptism, even after they have died. And so it was this belief that brought my oldest brother and my father to that place, dressed in white, my father rising out of the water after being fully immersed. I couldn’t attend, but that evening I imagined how it must have felt for Craig to lift my Dad out of the water, my grandmother looking on. She explained to me in a phone call later that week that she felt my grandfather's presence throughout the week. I don’t doubt it.
Grampa Joe: banana bread baker, birdwatcher, world traveler, husband, cancer fighter.
HohoooOOO to you Grampa Joe. I’ll see you soon.
Until then: DDAD.