Saturday, June 6, 2015

Things My Grandfather Taught Me

Joseph R. McIlree
I don't exactly remember the first memory I have of my grandfather - Dr. Joseph R. McIlree - or, as everyone called him,  Doc.

I do, however, remember my last. Grandpa was in the hospital in Milwaukee in 1974. He'd had a stroke and our family went to see him. I just stood at the side of his bed and held his hand the entire time. The stroke had paralyzed his voice box so he couldn't speak.

I didn't know it was going to be the last time I saw him. Forty one years later, I still think of him often and remember the many things he taught me.

Grandpa was a veterinarian - mostly treated farm animals. I think of him every time I see someone trying to train their dog to do something and the dog isn't cooperating. He always said that in order to train a dog, you have to be smarter than the dog. Very true - and what I've discovered is it's a lesson that applies to so many other life situations.

You can see by the photo, he was a soldier. World War I, U.S. Army - served in Europe taking care of the horses - think of the movie "War Horse." That was my grandpa. He also told me once I was almost a quarter French - not sure if he was joking or not, but he hadn't met my grandmother yet.

He would sit in an upholstered chair in the living room of his house, and you had to pass by him to get from one end of the living room to the other. If you happened to be one of his young grandchildren, he would trap you with his legs as you were going by and tickle you. We loved it.

He loved my grandma's cooking, particularly her pie. It was his favorite food. I would ask him what his favorite kind of pie was, and he'd answer, "Pie." I figured he hadn't heard me, so I repeated the question and he would answer, "Pie."

One distinct memory I have of staying with my grandparents is the call of the mourning doves in their yard. For some reason, I never heard that bird at our house - or really remember hearing it anywhere.

Except now - since I've moved to Michigan and particularly since I live in a rural area, I hear them all the time. I look at it as my grandfather's way of staying with me.

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