My Grandpa, “Doc Standring”, passed a week ago today. My heart is still heavy and the tears are still coming. Since Grandpa was a huge supporter of my writing and my blog, I thought I’d post the words below I said at his funeral. My dad spoke as well, and he stood beside me while I shared my memories, for which I am so thankful. The few paragraphs in black ink are parts that I did not share at the funeral but thought people might like to read. Everything I said aloud is in blue. My family and I are thankful for all of the notes and kind words we have received over the past week. As we saw at the visitation and funeral, Grandpa was loved by so many people. God bless…Sarah
I’m not a fan of public speaking. I have a history of breaking down in tears in front of groups as I am a bit of an introvert. But I can’t let this day pass without sharing some of my memories of the best man I have ever known. You probably called him Doc. I called him Grandpa. Sometimes, I called him Abuelo, the Spanish word for Grandpa, and he called me Sarita, the Spanish nickname for Sarah. He was my first inspiration to study Spanish. Grandpa was a constant source of inspiration to me.
If you’re here right now, you know what he was like. He was intelligent, interested in learning more about everything, from technology to foreign languages to cooking. He was a hard-worker. He played the bagpipes. Not only was he a dentist in the Navy, he had his own practice here in Evansville. He was a proud founder of Sonitrol and opened his company here in 1969. He spoke to me often of our family ties to the co-founder of Sonitrol, his cousin Bob Baxter.
Grandpa loved his family and was interested in where we came from. He spent years collecting genealogy information on both sides of my family tree. He and my late grandma Marilyn even visited some of our distant relatives in England, the Standrings, and in recent years Grandpa was in constant contact with another one of our distant cousins, Almuth, in Germany. She helped him fill in some of the blanks of his ancestry study. One of the emails he sent me recently detailed some of the information about one of my ancestors, Bertha… In his email he wrote:
Hola Sarita, Here is some more information about one of your ancestors. Bertha was born in Ostfreisland, Holland near the German border in 1838. At age 12, in 1851, she left with her family from Gross-Midlum, Germany and traveled to Baltimore. The six weeks voyage was very hard and the ship came dangerously close to an iceberg. The captain called everyone on deck to pray for a safe passage.
Grandpa worked hard to organize our ancestry for us, and I loved getting those emails.
As you know, Grandpa brought laughter and smiles to every room he entered. He had a lot to boast about, yet he never did. He was very humble. Instead of talking about himself, he had a knack for making others feel special.
For as far back as I can recall, Grandpa told me stories over and over about how he’d gotten such a kick out of my younger years. He’d say “Say-rah Lou”, or Sarah Louise, I remember when you were a baby. And you cried all of the time. But all I had to do was carry you outside, and you’d look up at the trees and get real quiet.
I was born on Flag Day, a lesser-known American holiday. Every single birthday, Grandpa would bring me my present along with a small USA flag and say Happy Birthday, Sarah Louise, and Happy Flag Day.
Everyone knows how he’d say, “You breed rabbits you get rabbits. “ Every time we did anything ornery growing up, which we are Standrings, so you know we did, sure enough he’d say it.
He’d entertain me and my siblings with jokes that many of you are familiar with. He’d play pranks on his friends. He’d ask to smell your ice cream cone or popsicle as you were eating it, and then he’d steal a bite- He taught my dad to do this, too.
I used to love when I’d hear the story of when my dad first introduced my mom to my grandparents. They were at the Evansville Country Club eating dinner. This was in the seventies so my mom had on an assortment of rings. At the end of the meal when the desserts arrived, Grandpa asked my mom if she thought his piece of carrot cake felt a little too warm. He kept waving his hand over his cake and asking her what she thought. Though hesitant, he finally convinced her to wave her hand over the cake to check, and she did. Immediately, he smashed her hand, completely submerging it into the cake, covering her hand and rings with cake and icing. Welcome to the family.
I always looked forward to eating lunch at the Shrine. Not really because of the food, but to see my dad and my Grandpa and to hear the jokes Grandpa would tell. One time when I was in high school, right after he got his first hearing aids, we were there eating lunch, and he got that mischievous look on his face, so I knew he had a new joke to tell us. This one involved my dad’s help. From across the table, Grandpa looked at my dad and said, “You know, Mark. I’ve got this new hearing aid. It’s the best one yet. I can hear the leaves rustling in the breeze; I can hear the birds chirping off in the distance. It’s incredible.” Right on cue, Dad would tilt his head and ask, “What kind is it?” Grandpa would lift his hand to his ear and reply, “What time is it?” He’d look at his watch and add, “It’s ten past twelve.” I don’t know how many times they told that joke, but I never got tired of hearing it.
At one time, Grandpa hired all of the acts for the circus. He took me back stage every year growing up to meet the entertainers. One year, Lassie was the main act, and they needed a helper, and Grandpa really wanted me to do it. But I was about ten and terribly shy and didn’t want to. But he insisted, and I could never say no to him. I always wanted to please him because I admired him so much. I had short hair at the time and the announcer kept calling me a boy, and I wanted to run and hide, but I didn’t. I couldn’t let Grandpa down.
One year in St. Croix, Grandpa and I noticed an older German traveler; he was there alone. And Grandpa told me, “Go use your German and talk to him. He’s all alone.” I honestly didn’t want to approach a strange man and strike up a conversation, but not being able to say no to Grandpa, I did and found out the man’s wife had recently passed and he was sailing around the world. Every day, Grandpa encouraged me to go keep the man company for a few minutes and finally one day Grandpa said, “Sarah, I want you to invite him to dinner with us.” So I did. He ate dinner with all nine of us one night, and we had a great time. The man felt so special that we had included him in our family plans, and he thanked us. Grandpa was so pleased, not just because I had used my German, but because he just couldn’t let that old guy feel alone. He wanted him to feel special.
When I first got published, I knew he’d be proud of me, but I honestly didn’t expect him to read my book. But he did, and he quoted lines from my book back to me. He showed up at Barnes and Noble for every event with his walker, even when he wasn’t feeling well. He always made me feel so special. When I’d write a poem or a blog post online, he’d read it and post a comment for me to see. Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog and it had only been up for five minutes when I received a notification that William Standring had commented. Just seeing his name and comment made me smile.
Grandma Marilyn used to tell me the story about when she and Grandpa officially became an item. She said one day while she was in nursing school in St. Louis, she came home to find Grandpa and one other fella standing at her doorstep. Both of them had been trying to win her heart. She said it was a deciding moment. It was serious. She had to make a choice. She looked from one guy to the other and then she walked straight over to Grandpa. She told me she just knew she had to choose him. I’d always been told about when I was a baby and I wouldn’t let anyone hold me- willingly that is- except three people. My Mom, my dad, and my Grandpa Doc. My grandmothers couldn’t hold me, but Grandpa could hold me all he wanted. I went straight to him. I never asked Grandma to elaborate as to how she knew Grandpa was the one. I didn’t need an explanation. Of course, he was the one. Just like I knew from the moment I met him as a child, I went straight to him, too.
A few months back, Grandpa emailed Sam, Coleen, and me, and he told us in the email he didn’t think he had much time left. Then he wrote, “It has been a privilege to be your grandpa.” The email made me cry, imagine that- and of course, I wrote him back immediately and told him “Grandpa, it has been a privilege being your granddaughter too, and just so you know I plan to see you again in Heaven.”
Friday I watched my daughter, Audrey, give a presentation about Neil Armstrong’s success story. I couldn’t stop thinking about Grandpa. Grandpa’s success story wasn’t the businesses he started and grew or honors he received. Those things were important and they’ll live on through the next generations. Sonitrol will continue to be carried on by my brother, Sam. And that made Grandpa so proud. But Grandpa’s success story was more than that. His success story was the way he made us feel. He made each and every one of us feel loved and feel special, and he made us smile.
One of my friends told me the other day, that the more you love someone, the more your heart hurts when they pass. Well, Grandpa I must have loved you more than I can comprehend, because my heart has never hurt like this before.
Still, I’m certain God has a new angel in charge of the entertainment committee and probably telling one of his favorite jokes as we speak.
May those of us still here do our best to carry on his legacy of love and laughter. We’ll never forget you, Grandpa. And we’ll see you again.
Grandpa came to every book event I had back home in Indiana. ❤
Grandma and Grandpa in 1947 at the Washington University School of Nursing Prom. Grandpa went to dental school there, and Grandma went to nursing school there.
My brother Sam, myself, sister Coleen, and Grandpa at his last birthday party
My dad and I after Grandpa’s funeral
Link shared by Sonitrol about Grandpa: http://www.sonitrolev.com/doc-standring-he-will-be-missed/
Here are a few ‘wildlife’ photos I took while visiting family in Indiana recently. Most of the photos were taken at my brother’s house on a lake, and the rest were taken at my Mom’s house or hiking near her home. That fox got away before I could get a nice photo, but there is always next time. Now that I am back in the Sunshine state, where I have already seen a couple of alligators lurking in the ponds that dot our landscape, I must admit, it was a relaxing visit to the Hoosier state… I didn’t worry about an alligator surfacing from the depths of my brother’s lake…not even a little… and those turtles and ducks were kind of cute. 🙂