Saturday, January 09, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Grandfather

Alpine Ibex, picture taken in the Julian Alps ...Image via Wikipedia
On January 9, 1895, my grandfather--my dad's dad--John Sebastian Imparl, was born in a small peasant village in Slovenija. At the time of his birth, Slovenija was occupied by Austria, so he grew up bilingual: he spoke his ancestral Slovenian at home and the required German in school. Sometime during the first decade of the 1900s, my grandfather and his immediate family left Slovenija and moved to the United States.

My grandfather had a hard life. A naturalized United States citizen, during World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in the Western Pacific. After he returned home, he faced considerable suffering. His beloved wife and my grandmother, Genevieve Kolenc Imparl, passed away in 1947. Their oldest son, my dad's brother, John, followed her in death about one year later, while serving in the U.S. Army and stationed in California. The remaining three children thrived, but I can only imagine the pain my grandfather must have felt during the last few years of the 1940s.

Even in the face of all of that adversity, my grandfather persisted, determined to make a good life for himself, his family, and his later descendants in his adopted homeland. I remember, as a boy, listening to his stories, such as his tale about having been visited in the "old country" by his guardian angel when he was 13 or 14 years old. He also shared several pearls of wisdom such as, "The biggest room in your house is always the room for improvement," and "No news is good news." With my propensity to interpret things literally, I must admit I puzzled over those little maxims until I was a grown man before I really understood them. Even so, those wise words give me fond memories and food for thought today.

I remember my grandfather was always kind to my parents, his remaining children, my brother, and me. In his later years, he didn't have much but he always offered the best hospitality he could and I always felt welcomed and safe at his home. He passed away on January 27, 1978, when I was freshman in high school. I miss him.

Rest in peace, Gramps. You live on, not only in your descendants' fond memories, but also in our very bodies, in our DNA. We're working to make you proud of us.
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1 comment:

Nerd Of Steel's Boxing Tips said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather. The "largest room" adage is quite eloquent and immediately had me thinking. Your grandfather sounded like an interesting man, and a man of great character.

It's crazy to compare our cushy lives to our grandparents. My grandfather was not that dissimilar, being the first natural born in a family of Polish immigrants. My grandmother died of cancer after giving birth to their 7th child. He raise 7 kids by himself working as a longshoremen on the docks of Philly. I'll always remember the story of the time he couldn't afford a dentist, so went to the garage and removed his own tooth with pliers. Tough old bastard.

Looking back now I can see how their struggles and hardwork laid the foundation for each generation to have a better life. I think seeing that fact would make them very happy.