On Thursday I said my final goodbye to one of the greatest men I will ever know personally. He was not great in the sense of a doer of daring deeds or accomplisher of great feats. What made this man great was that he put his family and loved ones first up until the very last day of his life. He was a loyal husband, loving father, generous grandfather, everyone's friend and friend to everyone. He was the man my fellow grandchildren and I called Papa.
So many different things come to mind when remembering Herbert Albert Fischer, Jr but what I will remember the most was his generosity. As a child of the Great Depression, Papa saved his household poor forgoing luxuries many of us take for granted so he could provide when it mattered most. As a proud graduate of Indiana University, Papa made sure his four children received a college education. But Papa's kindness did not stop there. Many years later when I was a teenager, I remember one Christmas when Papa handed each of his own kids a simple white envelope. Many of the grandkids were preoccupied ripping open boxed presents but my eyes were fixed on my mother as she opened my dad's white envelope. Her voice cracked, her eyes filled with tears, and she raised her hand to cover her mouth. Although still to this day I do not know the sum of money that was given that day- I could only imagine.
Behind his family, golf and Indiana University were a close second for the two things Papa loved most. As far back as I can remember Papa had full season tickets for both Indiana Hoosier football and basketball. Although Indiana has never been known for its football program, some of my fondest memories growing up were my dad and I getting up early on a fall Saturday to meet Papa at the Wendy's in Columbus, Indiana before driving to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. Papa never directly told me, but I knew he was proud that I attended Indiana University for my college education. I know this because he never hesitated to send me his football or basketball tickets for a game I wanted to attend. In four years, I never once paid to see an Indiana University athletic event. Thank you, Papa. I will never forget that.
Papa loved to eat and entertain. He is the only man I think in the history of mankind who installed a pool in his own backyard even though he could not swim. Even though his own children had left the next and moved on, he still wanted his house to be the epicenter of all family functions, and at these functions there were always plenty of cookies, cheese & crackers, and shrimp cocktail. My boy scout troop once took a trip to Southern Indiana and Papa did not even think twice about opening up his backyard, grill and pantry to a group of mostly strangers. Papa even picked up one of my friends from the Indianapolis Airport so he could surprise me for my Eagle Scout ceremony when I was 16.
Above all things, Papa was a loyal husband. My grandmother had her faults and her bad habits became catalysts for her poor health, but never once did I see him become angry or bitter. Shortly after my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary, my grandmother's health turned for the worse. She was in and out of the nursing home, before a stroke and Alzheimer's kept her there permanently. Papa was by her side the whole time. He was there waiting when the nursing home opened in the morning and stayed until they closed their doors for the night.
Papa passed away exactly one week ago to date. His death happened so quickly and so suddenly that it still has not sunk in with many of us. He had routine gall bladder surgery that went smoothly, he came out just fine, was alert and talking, and the doctors thought about having him get up and start walking, but just a few short hours later he was on full life support because his whole intestinal system had shut down. You can't restart it like the heart, nor can you replace it like a kidney. The Lord had decided it was time for Papa to go home.
I will admit, I was angry. After all, it was not supposed to be like this. Papa was not supposed to go first. But he did and it is a reminder that we are not in control despite how much we think we are. The Lord has a plan and all things happen for a reason.
In memory of Herbert Albert Fischer, Jr. 1929-2008.