Phillip Huempfner
3 min readOct 27, 2021


For you, Grandpa.
A memoir.

Nine years ago I remember my grandpa begging me to come down to Wausau, Wisconsin. Why? The city library had just been renovated. Though it may sound lame to the average junior high school student to drive 2 hours to go to a library, I was actually very excited. Grandpa Tom wanted to show me the addition of the new saltwater fish tank.

Growing up, I always had a fish on my hook, thanks to Grandpa Tom. He was the one that gifted me a tackle box full of lures and bobbers and even fish scent wax, which I didn’t know existed until he gifted it to me when I was 13. An avid angler, Grandpa Tom had been skillfully fishing for more than 4 of my lifetimes. I like to think that I was never skunked fishing as a kid solely because of him, especially as everyone else in my family didn’t have the magic touch I had (probably thanks to the fish scent wax and expensive lures).

My grandfather and I have always connected through the outdoors. I remember the myriad of hunting and fishing stories and how my brother would always question their validity. Whether Grandpa’s tales were 100% true, I hoped deeply that they were. I too, just like my grandpa had happen to him, want a bird to land on the bill of my hat someday. The way he spoke of Nature was with great reverence and respect. He called the outdoors “God’s house” and held a vast amount of knowledge of even the smallest creatures — proving his love extended to even the squirrels that my grandmother hated so much (she was furious when they would steal the seeds she’d offer the chickadees and blue jays; outside the kitchen window in the morning as she was preparing her coffee and sausages for breakfast, grandma wanted to see the blue, black and white feathers. Not brown fur. My grandfather quietly laughed at her fury).

Walking into the library, my grandfather immediately walked up to the fish tank. He already knew how many kinds of fish there were in the tank and all the secret nooks where the shrimp liked to hide. He quietly observed the fish around the tank, pointing out each hidden gem as we passed by. Our eyes were glued to the fish, and were both enthralled.

Seeing my grandfather’s respect for all forms of life is something I have carried into my adult life. I’d be a fool if I denied the impact he’s had on my adulthood. Grandpa Jacobs knew the outdoors so well. Hearing a simple bird call, he could tell you what species of bird was calling and what each specific call meant. He was a quiet man who listened to nature instead of seeing nature as something he needed to tame or dominate. This reverence is something I will not forget.

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One of my favorite quotes from grandpa was about rain. Whenever someone would change their plans to avoid getting a little wet, grandpa would say, “Never heard of rain hurting anybody!”

Besides monsoons and flash floods and cloud bursts, he’s right. Fear for the future is not going to help you today.

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