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Sometimes in life you can be shaped and affected by people without even realizing it. This revelation came to me today as I was writing my grandfather’s obituary. I didn’t know him well and our relationship was fairly non-existent, but as it turns out – something about him rubbed off on me anyway. Who knew being an opinionated loud mouth was genetic?

Back in the 1970s and 80s, you could rarely open The Racine Journal Times without seeing my grandfather’s name in the Opinion section. He was kind of locally “famous” for his letters. J. E. (Jack Edmund) Byrd always had something to say and he wanted everyone to hear it. Hmm…sounds just a tad familiar. My mother has a scrapbook of many of these letters and I look forward to reading them.

My grandfather never showed much interest in getting to know my brother and I. And when we were kids, he moved out east. He and my grandma were divorced and she was very much a permanent pillar in our lives. But he was never much of a kid person. Later in life our estrangement could be equally blamed on me. I never reached out and often felt annoyed by things he would say.

As it often happens with the death of a family member, you realize too late how much that person could have brought to your life with just a little effort. Although he was quite eccentric and a little obnoxious – he was an encyclopedia of information. He could have taught me much about books, vitamins, our ancestry, history and Racine circa ‘olden days’. I saddens me to realize all of the knowledge he took with him – knowledge I may never have.

Though I was not close with my grandfather and his passing isn’t effecting me the way other deaths have, I still feel a sense of loss. Mostly I feel the sadness for my mother who now considers herself somewhat of an orphan. I too lost my father and can relate to the odd and heavyhearted feelings she is having. Regardless of the relationship, losing a parent is life shaking. My heart is with my mom and I hope she knows how much I love her.


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