Lyle Lawrence Stanbro: February 24, 1937 – September 1, 2011
As this September started, the world got a little less funny, a little less opionated, a little less sweet: My Grandpa Lyle passed away and with him went a lot of wise cracking, jokes, a little bit of unsolicited advice, and a ton of LOVE. He was a man who loved so very much.
As this is my blog, I can only write about him from my own point of view, tell my own story of him. I don’t know too much about his childhood, or really much about his life before he moved to Florida. I know he served in the Air Force, that he raised his children in Western New York, and that he was always a character, a strong personality, with a strong presence.
My mom told me he even died wearing one of the white shirts that was just so typical of him. He had a wardrobe that I can remember forever. These tight jeans, and his white muscle shirts with the rolled up sleeves. His western wear, he’s a cowboy branded into my memory forever.
You Need A Grandpa? You’ve Got One.
In 1993 my Aunt Sheila married my Uncle Tim. A few months before the wedding we went up to Western New York for my Aunt’s bridal shower. The road trip was just me, my sister Anna, our Mom Kathy, and the bride-to-be Aunt Sheila. The trip was a hoot, I still remember little snapshots of it, and as a result Aunt Sheila got a wedding shower, and Anna and I got new Grandparents (I also got a CB Handle of my own, but that’s a different story for a different day).
You see, my sister and I haven’t really ever had grandparents on our Mom’s side, seeing as they passed way before we were born or too little to know them. We’ve heard so many stories and we share a familial love for their spirits, but we’ve never had a Grandma or Grandpa on that side. While we were in WNY for that wedding shower and this grandparentless issue came to the attention of Lyle and Moni, the groom-to-be Tim’s parents… it was decided for us!
I literally remember Grandpa Lyle declaring he would be our Grandpa. And ever since then, he has been.
It’s why we’ve called him, “Grandpa Lyle.” He asked us to. He came up with the moniker and we happily complied. To have a new grandparent was a special treasure, it was this exciting, lovely thing. And it just stuck. He adopted my Mom right in there too, and in the spirit of love we were all family. And as we all got older together, it just became a thing that was known. We didn’t explain it or talk about it, he was just our Grandpa, and that’s that.
I remember a year or so after the wedding, we spent Christmas up north and we actually stayed with him instead of other relatives on our side of the family. His house was so fun! He could draw pictures of anything you called out, he had a motorcycle he could take you for rides on. He’d order fried fish from the local bowling alley for dinner, because it was the best; the local tavern for wings. He and Grandpa Moni gave my sister and I gold earrings for Christmas, I still have them. He was funny and charming, and wore his hair like a 50’s greaser. He was the coolest, and he just loved us like we were always his.
I will never forget that. Sometimes, you don’t need blood to just love someone. Anyone married knows that. But it sure works in other sorts of relationships too.
As we got older, he moved to Florida to be with my Uncle Tim and Aunt Sheila. And he just became part of our little family unit. My Mom, My sister and I (and sometimes my Dad too), would just celebrate every holiday and special occaision with my Aunt, Uncle, cousins and Grandpa Lyle too. It was just normal for me, he was just my grandpa.
He always spoiled us at Christmas and did too much. I know he loved to do that. He was kinda hard to shop for, I remember that. I remember being maybe 19 or 20 or so and fretting about what to get him for Christmas every year, never sure what he was into or what he needed. He was always one of those guys who seemed to already have what he’d like and anything frivolous didn’t make sense for him.
When my cousins, Justin and Nicole, were younger and loved to color all the time, you could name anything and Grandpa Lyle could and would draw for you. He was an artist. It was always a fun game. He’d always point out paintings and say that he could do better.
I’ll always remember his hands. Big, strong hands, with caluses, and wide fingers. He has the hands of a lumberjack. Given his trade it made sense. Not only could he draw and paint, but his life’s work was building. Houses, buildings, cabinets, anything. He could build anything with those big strong hands of his. Standing in my Aunt and Uncle’s house, one that he and my Uncle built with their hands (which happen to look very similar)… it always was a marvel to me when Grandpa Lyle would draw something delicate or dainty. It was a clever oxymoron to see his Herculean hands draw little flowers or some cute animals for Nicole to color in.
His love for Nicole was special, and very sweet. I like the way she says the word “grandpa.” Grond-pah. Maybe that’s how it sounds? I’m not so good at phonetics, but I can hear it in my head. It was a very matter-of-fact word to me, the way she says it, in her own Nicole way.
When Nicole was little and she was starting to like music, she would tell me about these oldies or country songs she listened to with grond-pah in his truck. It was cute the way they did that together, their special bond. I can just hear her voice saying that word, her name for him, and it makes me smile. It’s a sweet, sincere term of endearment, grandpa. Maybe she’s outgrown that way she used to say it. But I can still hear it my head, and I like it.
I have my mom on the phone now. She’s saying she loved how Grandpa Lyle always wanted to go out west and look for treasure. He knew where it was and he had a plan for it. I think my Mom and Grandpa Lyle should have done it, gone out west. They’re both a bit kooky and the two of them together was usually trouble. Especially if booze was involved. They’d get silly and get to talkin’ about wacky things. Perhaps one would say, carried away.
My Mom remembers when Lori told him he was going to be a Grandpa, he was over the moon. Mom remembers that he was at her house, in Ormond, when he got the call and he was just totally excited. He loved having grandbabies. His Sweet Babies. There are seven of them, not counting my sister and I, who will always miss their Grandpa. He was such a good Grandpa, so into it. He loved spoiling the little ones and bouncing babies on his knee. When I was pregnant, he told me I was going to look like a rope with a knot tied in it. It didn’t happen, but I wish it would have and that he could have seen it.
We’ll miss him. We’ll miss his wacky stories and his silly ideas. He liked to watch the History Channel and documentaries and really get into conspiracy theories. He loved them, stuff about aliens and everything. It would be funny at family get togethers to see him talk someone’s ear off about all these ideas he had. When my husband Matthew was first going to meet Grandpa Lyle, I told Matthew that he should go ask my Grandpa Lyle about one of these things, maybe about Pyramids and ask who built them, knowing that Grandpa Lyle would go on and on, and my husband would get stuck in the conversation for a while. Perhaps that’s malicious, but I really mean it a lovingly, sweet, way. A funny way.
There is such a strong memory of him burned into my memory. The way he dressed, walked, talked, carried himself. Like an Elvis Cowboy with a toolbelt on, squared back shoulders and an incredibly handsome face that aged with nobility and charm.
I wasn’t around him much during his final year, seeing as I lived in Hawaii and he was in Florida. I didn’t see him get sick, really. I’m sad for that. I mean, I had cancer some years ago. I should have been there for him, to relate to him. I talked my Aunt a lot. She kept me in the loop about his health and how he was doing. I was sad that he was sick, of course. I was proud of my family for taking such good care of him.
After he passed a couple people said that maybe it was nice that I didn’t see him ailing, I didn’t see him change. Maybe they’re right. Instead of knowing how he looked ill, I have that indelible imagery of him that I’ll carry forever, the strong handsome Grandpa Lyle that I know.
But there’s part of me that wishes more than anything I could have given him a proper hug goodbye. To hold his hand. You know. But that’s not how it happened. And now I’m writing this in his memory. I’m glad that he was so surrounded by family in those last days, so many people came to hold him and say goodbye. After he took his last breathe, my Mom held the phone to his ear and I told him I loved him, and that I will forever. That’s my sweet, final memory of him, my end of this story.
My Mom told me his death was beautiful. My sister said the same thing. The two of them, my Aunt and Uncle all around him, just the four of them. After Nicole went up to bed, he stopped fighting and let go. One final, sweet gesture for his special Nicole, he waited until she had gone to bed.
It’s funny how you can live such a long life and know so many people, and then have your death be such a point of interest. I’m sure if we could ask him, he’d have other stories he’d prefer we focus on, perhaps. But the story of his passing is a reflection of him: sweet and dignified, beautiful and loving,
It’s always sad when someone passes, it’s hard to say the right things. Maybe I overstepped some lines with my honest reflection? But honesty is love, and this is my reflection of him. I had such a good cry writing this.
This is my take on my Grandpa Lyle.
Grandpa Lyle was a strong man, a bold and brave man, funny, a bit wacky, often silly, very charming and full of love. He will be greatly missed.
Memorial services will be held this weekend at the American Legion in Forestville, NY.
I send my love and my regrets for not being able to fly there and be with everyone this weekend. I pray for peace for my Granpda Lyle as he’s in Heaven now, and when I pray for him I smile as I think about him hugging his parents and brother, his sweet welcome home, and being with the many other loved ones he’s now reuinted with. I’m happy for him to be in God’s arms now.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Lyle.