Some of you already know, but my grandfather passed away about a week and a half ago. The funeral was this last Friday out in Washington state (just north of Seattle). I actually spent a good chunk of my life out in Washington; from the age of six until my fifteenth birthday; and then another year when I was eighteen. I couldn’t make it out west for the funeral, but I wrote the following for my sister to read at the funeral on my behalf. I’m the oldest of eight grandchildren, and the father of four of his six great-grandsons (apparently we McNutts are determined to multiply that McNutt name).
I wish I was there with all of you today; please know that I am there in spirit and praying for each of you.
I am convinced that we grandchildren have been blessed more than we will ever truly realize with the gift of Walt and Joyce Small. Their love, generosity, and commitment to us has been something we have always known is there. Growing up, Christmas, family vacations, spending time at their camp and house – all of these memories will always be treasures. But there are a few that always come to mind immediately when I think of my grandpa.
I’m pretty sure my love of comic books started in the back room of Grandpa’s barbershop. There were always a couple things on my short list of what had to happen when we came to Burlington for a family visit; I had to hit Grandma up for a dollar for “the candy shop,” I would probably get a “horse bite” from Grandpa, and I needed to go to the barbershop to get some comic books. He had a massive box in the back room – it was for kids that came for haircuts to read while they waited, but he’d always let me dig through them and take a ton back to the house to read. More importantly, I just loved hanging out with him at the barbershop, seeing him in his place with all his tools of the trade. There was just something satisfying about sitting in that chair watching him cut my hair in the mirror.
I have a couple pictures on my desk at work – they’ve been there for years. One of them is him giving my oldest son, Micah, his first haircut. It was funny to me at the time because Grandpa was so nervous about it, worried his hands would shake, that he’d hurt the little guy, that he was too old to be cutting hair any more. I don’t think Walt Small was ever too old for anything – some people just have a youth and strength to them that makes you forget their actual age. And once he started cutting Micah’s hair the scissors were a blur, he was hopping around him – I loved watching him in action with his great grandson.
But the memory I have always held on to as the most meaningful to me was from my childhood. Whenever he and grandma came to visit, or we went to visit them, he always made a point of taking me out for breakfast. I looked forward to those breakfasts year around, and I was always so excited to have them with him. They were the most fun in Burlington because he’d take me to one of his spots where his buddies were – I’d feel so proud sitting there with him for everyone to see. It was such a tangible way of him communicating to me that he valued having time with just me. I never doubted his love for me or any of his grandchildren because he made us a priority in his own way. I was truly blessed to have him as my grandfather.