At my grandfather's viewing in April of 2001, one of his friends, a garrulous man named Sam I remember as a more self-assured and quicker-to-laugh Jackie Gleason, sat down with me and one of my cousins, the two of us Papa's only granddaughters out of seven grandchildren, and talked about how he had admired our grandfather. Our own generation would have to do a hell of a lot of work to become the kind of people our grandparents were, Sam told us. Papa and those of his generation seemed quite special and just good and strong in some way that later generations did not. The only other thing I specifically remember Papa's friend telling us was how rare and wonderful it was to know someone who, when you unexpectedly stopped by for a quick visit, would welcome you into his home and say, well, first, Papa's usual "Take your hat off and stay awhile," and then, "Here, pull up a chair. Mum just made some of her bread and we still have jelly from this past summer" and how good it was just to sit with Papa in the kitchen and talk over fresh homemade bread and homemade jelly. Sure, some people offer coffee or cake for a guest, Sam went on, but to be able to visit over bread and jelly! That our grandfather had no pretenses about such things and understood how good it was just to catch up with a friend over homemade bread and homemade jelly...! Sam wanted us to understand this. He went on and on about it. It was such a simple thing, he told us, but that was one of the things he would miss the most now that our grandfather had died, and there just weren't people out there like our grandfather anymore.
In one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, she mentions that her future husband, Almanzo, once asked her, "What kind of man do you think I am?" and Laura admits that she'd never given it any thought. But it is something I've given a lot of thought, and I remember deciding--no, not deciding, just knowing--that day at the funeral home that I would never marry anyone who didn't understand about the bread and jelly.