My grandfather, Emil Frei Jr., died when I was only a few years old and I have no memory of him. My grandmother, who lived on the same property that I grew up on, had just gotten remarried at about the time of my earliest memories. Everyone I knew, most importantly my parents, called her new husband by his name, Luke. I did the same. One day my grandmother and Luke sat me down to explain to me that I should call him grandfather. “OK Luke” I replied. They continued the attempt with “can you say grandfather”? “Sure Luke, I can say grandfather” I said, simply being agreeable. Both of them kept repeating “Grandfather”. I was now getting a little confused why they kept saying that word. I patiently waited for them to stop chanting and then said “well, see you later Luke, my mom’s calling”. They never brought the subject of grandfather up again, he was forever Luke.
Luke was a dignified man who could barely walk with a cane due to having polio as a child. He desperately would not get into a wheelchair because he felt that if he did, he would never get out again. I learned a lot from him. I do not think that my present situation is similar though, in that abilities are quickly passing me by and I need to invent all the aids and tricks that I can in order to keep going the best I can. When things like wheelchairs are inevitable in the near future, no matter how hard you want to fight, the fight about single specific items takes on less, if not no, meaning. I’m still digesting this.
In recent get togethers with my cousins, I was surprised to hear some of them having a bit of a sharp memory of Luke. I now believe that he took me under his wing to some extent. He loved to think and have good conversation. We talked much about science, even though he wasn’t much of a scientist himself. It’s not clear to me now whether he was getting excited about science or talking about what I wanted to talk about. Luke gave me a never ending subscription to Popular Science magazine, which I very much looked forward to.