The following is the speech I shared at my Grandpa Frank Lazo's funeral on Tuesday. He touched many people with his life. My dad, Doug, shared the eulogy and asked my sister and I to share some memories from the grandchild's perspective. I thought it was only appropriate to share some funny memories of Grandpa since he was, indeed, a character.
I have the privilege of sharing with you today just a few of the memories I have of my grandpa Frank. Although I grew up in Chicago and my grandparents called the Bay Area their home, I saw my grandpa often. Grandma Cora and Grandpa Frank would jump a plane without reservation to come watch my brother Paul and I perform in a school musical or play in a soccer game or to even just enjoy one of mom’s famous Italian meals. They would volunteer to join us on family camping trips or other vacations.
As an adult, I had the chance to deepen my relationship with my grandpa starting in 2003 when he came to live with my husband and me in Fresno. We were still newlyweds and we felt honored to welcome Grandpa into our home for a year and a half. I had a feeling this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend time with Grandpa and learn from him. I started to write this article in my head about the “Lessons I Learned From My Grandpa.” Today, I want to share with you just a few of those lessons. I want to remember my Grandpa for the true *character* he was.
1*START YOUR DAY WITH THE NEWSPAPER.
For as long as I can remember, my Grandpa started his day reading the newspaper. He didn’t merely skip to the sports page or check a few Business stories. He would pour over every story from beginning to end. It’s no surprise that he put in 25-plus years as a printer with the San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle. A love for good stories is something we shared. He inspired me to read. He had a deep reverence for the newspaper business and that made an impression on me as a young person. As I graduated from college and pursued a job as a newspaper reporter, Grandpa was always my biggest fan. He encouraged me every step of the way.
2*DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT YOUR CAMERA.
Gramps was always Mr. Photogenic. I can still see the wrinkles on his face stretching and dancing to form that winner smile. Grandpa topped any Japanese tourist with his picture-taking skills. He could be found at birthday parties, weddings and even funerals (gasp!), urging people to smile and pose for that signature “CLICK.” I guess it’s no surprise then that his grandson Jeffrey and wife Caitlin have their own photography and printing business today in San Luis Obispo. Grandpa’s picture fetish will live on.
3*WHEN THE STOMACH GRUMBLES, FIND THE CLOSEST CHINESE BUFFET.
Grandpa may have been a skinny guy most of his life but he always had an unbelievable appetite. Whether in Italy, Hawaii or Disneyland, he could always find an economical Chinese buffet restaurant. And if they had shrimp or crab legs, Grandpa was all over it. When he lived with Ericlee and me, he insisted we try all the Chinese buffets in town. We will always drive by Tang Dynasty - about a mile from our house - and remember Grandpa and his hollow leg. That’s where Ericlee and Paul would get their workout going back and forth to the buffet line, filling Grandpa’s plate.
4*MAKE FRIENDS INTO YOUR FAMILY.
Grandpa had an uncanny ability to make everyone he met into family. Both he and my grandma Cora had the gift of hospitality. He was quick to make new friends and we always had extra people at the dinner table who Grandma and Grandpa met on their travels or at the bus stop or at church. When I announced on my Facebook page this week that Grandpa had passed away I started to get scores of comments from friends from different seasons of my life who remembered Grandpa and his quirky ways. Many of my friends are mourning today because they considered my grandpa their grandpa. This speaks to his gregarious character and the way he made friends into family.
5*LABEL EVERYTHING WITH YOUR NAME AND FULL ADDRESS – EVEN IF IT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU.
Grandpa loved to label. I can still picture his jagged scrawl across pieces of Scotch tape and stuck to everything from magazines to photo albums to suitcases to toothbrushes to cereal boxes to underwear. Some disturbed soul bought him a label maker one year. He had a ball with those stick-on labels. My favorite was the way Grandpa labeled items – like Dad’s tools – that weren’t even his.
6*NO WARDROBE IS COMPLETE WITH LESS THAN 20 HAWAIIAN SHIRTS.
My grandpa was quite the fashionista. He was prepared for any occasion with a freshly-pressed “Aloha” shirt and a pair of slacks. Grandpa wore his “aloha shirts” underneath Sunday suits and as a work uniform for projects in the yard. He could make this get-up work in the below-zero temps of Chicago and in the warm ocean breezes along the California Coast.
7*THE SECRET TO LIFE IS STAYING IN SHAPE.
As a young buck, Grandpa was quite the tennis player and prided himself on those muscular legs. Later in life, we shared many fun moments with Grandpa watching sports like swimming on the Olympics, basketball March Madness and even boxing. Grandpa cheered us on while we ran our first marathon in San Diego. And after nine decades of life he was still willing to paddle boat on Shaver Lake and somehow organized a tennis league at his convalescent home. (We’re still wondering how he accomplished that one…)
My husband is a high school Track & Field and basketball coach. We would cart Grandpa in his wheel chair to all sorts of races, meets and games. Ericlee and Grandpa would often talk sports at the dinner table. One night Ericlee mentioned that he wanted to construct some practice hurdles for his track team out of PVC pipes. Grandpa said he would “take care of it.” Ericlee and I mused at this thought and let it go. Of course, our 90-year-old grandpa did not. The next evening we returned home after practice to find him down a few stairs in our office with PVC pipes laid out on the floor and working with a hack saw to put together the hurdles. Sca-ry! We still don’t know how he got there.
8*NEVER VENTURE OUT WITHOUT A BACK-UP FLASHLIGHT.
Some guys have guns. Other guys have power tools. My grandpa measured his manhood by how big a flashlight he carried. I can’t remember a Christmas when Grandpa didn’t unwrap a new flashlight. We all knew what he wanted! He had mini mag lights and gargantuan search lights strategically placed in drawers all over the house. I suppose his life motto could have been: He who dies with the most flashlights wins.
9*NEVER LET THE GAS TANK GET BELOW 3/4 FULL.
Admittedly, Grandpa was a little obsessive- compulsive about some things. One of those things was always having a full tank of gas. We went on many road trips with Grandpa across the United States and, despite his poor eye sight, he seemed to always know whether the little needle on the gas gauge indicated less than full. “You go to the Chevron,” he would say in his Filipino accent. “You go get gas.” It didn’t matter if we had just filled up the tank 5 minutes ago, if Grandpa saw the Chevron symbol in the distance he insisted we stop. My husband learned this the hard way on a 12-hour trip from Fresno to Portland, Oregon for my brother’s wedding. ‘nough said.
10*THERE’S NO HARM IN DREAMIN’.
This is the final, but perhaps most important lesson, Grandpa taught me. He wasn’t a man who settled for the status quo. He had incredible drive and vision, which is clear in the fact he survived these 95 years. Grandpa was always dreaming about some grand mansion he owned in some exotic place. He would describe the architecture and landscape in great detail. At times we all probably rolled our eyes when he told us about this “real estate” he owned. (Probably something my brother Paul sold him.)
Today, I know his dreams are fulfilled. I can see him now hosting a fat luau in his heavenly mansion. I can imagine him with that glint in his dark eyes as he dances the hula with my grandma Cora in heaven.
And now, in honor of Grandpa, I have to smile, nod and say “Thank you, Thank you” for teaching me so many great lessons!