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Climbing into one of our old pickup trucks recently, I inhaled deeply to settle in. As I did, I caught a hint of something familiar in the air. I inhaled again a second and third time and my heart warmed as I recognized the scent: Brut aftershave — the kind my grandfather wore.

It must have been the combination of cold, fresh air and an assortment of Little Trees dangling in odd places that smelled like my late Grandpa Dale. In that moment, I relaxed and let the memories reel as a smile crossed my face and tears streamed down my cheeks.

Immediately I pictured him in my mind’s eye wearing his bright red, wool v-neck sweater with a white turtleneck underneath — and beneath that, a Hanes undershirt and suspenders. He began wearing suspenders when his slacks no longer stayed put on their own and his waistline was descending under a belly full of hearty laughs and sweets! He always had a peppermint or  butterscotch hard candy to share, change jingling in his pocket, and he was never without Lip Ivo lip balm.

I thought of my son Easton, who shot his very first buck this year. (A dandy too!) Grandpa Dale, who was an avid outdoorsmen himself, would have been so proud!

My grandpa was a hunter and fisherman. From the vast open spaces of South Dakota hunting pronghorn, to fishing Lake of the Woods in extreme northern Minnesota, to goose, duck and white-tailed deer hunting everywhere in between, he loved the outdoors. He was never short of stories from his outdoor adventures either!

Grandpa Dale was a busy body, never letting the grass grow beneath his feet. Whether he was mowing lawns, making chicken on the grill, carving up a ham, cleaning fish or sharpening knives, he was in motion. One of the hobbies he enjoyed in his retirement was woodworking.  He could make just about anything! He and my grandma would take in various craft fairs — gathering ideas for all kinds of woodworking projects. From napkin holders to shadow boxes, if he saw it, he could build it.

During my growing up years, Grandpa and Grandma Payne never lived close by. They did, however, visit often. When they did, Grandpa Dale would play endless games with us. Among our favorites were 31, Catch Phrase, Jenga and Skip-Bo. He always had time to play games with us. Anytime one of his grandkids beat him, he always had the same expression.  “You monkey!” he would chuckle.

I can remember my last visit with my grandpa. He was in hospice care. Cancer had overtaken his body after he cared so tenderly for my grandma during her last years with dementia. I was 19 years old and in my first year of college. It had been a few months since I had seen Grandpa Dale. I walked into his room and sitting in a wheelchair was a man I hardly recognized. His once-strong and stout body was thin and frail. His voice was soft — unlike the loud, booming voice I had come to recognize. We held hands and chatted briefly before I departed.

I wish I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self that would be the last time I would sit with my grandpa. I wish I could have realized he would never see me get married or meet his great-grandchildren. Had I known that, I would have lingered, soaking up my time with him.

However, now I have the great blessing of remembering and speaking of him fondly. I have photographs and memories to share with my family. I have the pleasure of telling my son how proud Grandpa Payne would be of his buck.

I have my personal memories too. I can still hear his voice, smell his aftershave and feel his great big arms wrap me in a tight hug. I am not sure if Brut aftershave still exists; but if it does, I might buy a bottle so I can relive the memories of my grandpa more often.

Source: Deep Roots: A familiar scent brings a flood of memories and tears | News |