My Grandpa Cookie was a pillar of strength, life and unique grit, his perspective refreshing, and his character a rarity. He always took the time to check in and see how life was going with everybody. He always had stories to tell, usually on repeat, but I never minded. I loved the way he wove a tale and inserted his own tidbits of humor therein.
It’s only been a few weeks since his passing, and I still don’t feel like he’s truly gone. I think it’s because he’s sticking around, checking in on people. I saw him in a dream a couple nights after his memorial service, and he was smiling and laughing. I got the feeling that he was okay, and he was letting me know. I hugged him, but it didn’t feel like a goodbye. It was just one of those warm hugs I always got from my Grandpa Cookie.
He was Grandpa Cookie to me and my brother for as long as I can remember. We’d see him almost daily when we were kids, and each time he’d have a packet of peanut butter cookies waiting for us, hence the nickname “Grandpa Cookie.” He loved it as much as we did, and I call him that to this day.
He and my uncle often met with us in later years at McDonald’s to chat, and Grandpa Cookie always had his trusty cup of coffee. He made Lorelai Gilmore look like an amateur when it came to the caffeinated drink. Those visits were always special to me, and it’s one of the things I will always treasure.
I’ve thought about memories of my grandfather ever since he passed away. I remember when my uncle would let me call him on the CB radio in his truck, and Grandpa Cookie would talk to me. I remember the school barbecues where my grandfather, uncle and great-uncle would join my brother and me for lunch on the playground every year. It became a tradition throughout elementary school, and it’s one of my favorite memories.
I feel grateful for the extra time I got to spend with Grandpa Cookie after I graduated college and lived only twenty minutes away from him. I would meet him and my uncle for breakfast, and Grandpa Cookie was always concerned about me eating something. I’m not necessarily a morning person, so I was never starving, but from time to time he’d buy me oatmeal and a drink. Always with cash, never cards. It was sweet, and it was one of the many things he did to show he cared.
My Grandpa Cookie was famous for his plaid flannels, work boots, 1950’s slicked-back hair and his work blues and greens. I loved that he kept pens and pencils in the front pockets of his shirts. I loved that instead of swearing around the kids, he used his favorite four-letter-word: “Dirt.” He had many quirks like that.
Everyone keeps saying that it was a blessing that my Grandpa Cookie passed the way he did. Suddenly, and at home. They’re right. It was the way he wanted it. He didn’t have to be in a nursing home or anything like that. He was still driving, and his mind was still sharp up until he passed. That was the way he wanted it, and I’m glad that God allowed him to do that, though I miss him terribly.
I endured a particularly awful day back in high school, and I remember my Grandpa Cookie coming over to me and giving me a big hug. He said, “Life is like the ocean, baby. Sometimes it’s rough, but it will always smooth itself back out again.” It’s one of my most favorite quotes, and it’s because of my grandfather. He had a lot of quotes, some nice and some not so politically correct, but this one will always stand out because of that day.
I kept a blue plaid flannel of my grandfather’s. It has white spots in random places from bleach stains from his work, rips in the elbows with black patches haphazardly placed in an effort to save the material, and random rips around the collar. My Grandpa Cookie wore out his clothes until there was nothing left, so this particular article of clothing is in prime condition, considering. It’s something I will keep forever because it’s comforting, and I feel like he’s always with me. I don’t necessarily need the flannel to know that, because he’s always in my heart, but it’s nice to have around.
Grief is a strange thing. It comes and goes in waves, hitting you at the most unexpected times. I’ve been to my fair share of funerals but this one is different. It depends on the person you’ve lost, and the circumstances thereof. My family have all been rallying around each other in support, and I’m grateful to be a part of the Lillejord family. I’m forever proud to be a Lillejord because of the people that carried the name before me, including my Grandpa Cookie, and all the Lillejords of present and future.
This is perhaps a cliché statement, but life truly is too short. Grandpa Cookie worked hard and was there for his family all his life. He had a significant impact on many people, and at the memorial service I learned even more stories about him from complete strangers. Grief puts things back into perspective. It made me realize that the people that bug me, the overwhelming feeling that work can bring, or anything else that frustrates me are minor at the end of the day.
I know it at the back of my mind, but a loss like this somehow brings it to the forefront, and I think that’s something Grandpa Cookie would want me to remember. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make the best of your day” is something he would say. I’m back at work and making some life decisions, and one of my greatest comforts is knowing that I’ve got Grandpa Cookie watching over me and making sure things turn out alright.