Yesterday my grandfather died.
I’m not someone who tends to post much about themselves or their family on their internet, but this seems a fitting moment to break this trend. Darl Edward Horn lived 95 years on this earth, far more than any of us have a right to expect. I remember fondly all the time I was able to spend with him. There were many ways in which he impacted me greatly, and for which I am very grateful. I want to record some of them so that I will not forget them, and so I can tell my children about them.
One thing that stood out to me as a boy in the stories about my grandfather was his military service. He was in school throughout most of World War II, but enlisted in the navy at the age of 18, straight out of high school. Germany had already surrendered to the Allies, but the war with Japan was still on going. However, at least according to the family story, the Japanese heard he was coming, and surrendered while he was still in boot camp. He still spent two years as a radio operator on Guam, a desolate island in the middle of the Pacific. Despite this record of service for his country, I always saw him avoid rather than seek out recognition for it.
My grandfather was always pointed out to me as an example of strong character. Apart from things like his 66-year marriage to my grandmother, to me this was reflected in simple ways, like the care he took in teaching me the proper etiquette when playing golf to show respect to others. One story I heard many times was an instance in which he stopped to buy some bread on the way home from work. Without thinking he walked right out the store, completely forgetting to pay for it, and drove him. When he got home and realized his mistake, he turned around immediately to make the hour-round trip to pay for the bread and right the wrong. One unusual thing about my grandfather is that he lived about the last 15 years without a stomach. It was quite remarkable that he was able to make such a full recovery after that operation. When your stomach is removed you lose all appetite and all food tastes like sawdust, and yet you have to eat small meals all through the day to get the nutrition your body needs. It is a testament to his unusual self-discipline that he forced himself to eat and was preserved to us for many more years.
I don’t think that I will ever understand all the ways that my grandfather impacted me. One of the major projects that I have undertaken so far is building my own house. This can be traced directly back to my grandfather. He built a vacation house with my father growing up, and then came down to help my dad build a garage and finish the upstairs of his house. When I was growing up my dad built and even larger garage with me and my brother, and then helped me build my house. Now I’m finishing the upstairs of my house with some help from my young children. I’m sure there are many other things like this that I may never realize how he affected me.
I’ll close with what I think may be the greatest testament I can offer to him, as well as all my grandparents. It’s that it wasn’t until I was quite old – maybe 15 or 16 – that the idea even crossed my mind that grandparents could be unkind to their grandchildren. I had heard, of course, of parents who mistreated their children. But Grandpa and my other grandparents, had showed me such consistent kindness, that I couldn’t imagine a grandparent doing that. Perhaps the years have clouded my memory, but I do not remember a single instance where they spoke harshly to me. Instead they were always loving and generous to a fault.
I remember all these things, and many more, with great gratitude.
“For all our days are passed away in thy wrath:
we spend our years as a tale that is told.
The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knoweth the power of thine anger?
even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”