A man is judged by his handshake, be it a business deal or sizing up a daughter's date. We grasp hands to extend gratitude, say goodbye and exert dominance.
Grandpa Ira didn't shake your hand — he enveloped it. His hand was a vise grip; wide fingers that could lock down and pull you in for a playful squeeze. With that one hand Grandpa lifted hay bales and people's lives.
Grandpa wore clip-on ties to church. After all, it's nearly impossible to make a Windsor knot with one hand. Pre-tied neckties and slip-on shoes were Grandpa's only concessions to the corn shredder that took his left arm.
Life changes gradually. We don't recognize the passing of time until we look in the mirror or watch a child's wedding. Life can also change in seconds — like on a fall day in 1944.
Grandpa was born to farm. One of seven children to Thurman and Addie Scofield, Ira T. was destined to till and toil on the family farmstead. He graduated from school, married and started his own family. Life moved gradually with the seasons: spring planting and autumn harvest.
Grandpa was 28 years old that fall day he was loaded into a car and rushed down dirt roads in a desperate attempt to reach a doctor. Farming, his livelihood, threatened to take his life. Machinery made to ease burdens had inflicted untold hardship.
A tourniquet tied to halt the bloodshed saved Grandpa but not his arm. My mother, not even 2 years old, still had a father to hold her hand.
Grandpa continued to plant corn. He tended a small apple orchard and raised livestock. However, he never really called himself a farmer.
He started Scofield Insurance and Real Estate in 1945. He was a successful businessman who lived the Midwest farmer, sweat-equity ethos; whether baling hay or bailing out a neighbor in need. If the Lord loves a cheerful giver, Ira T. was well-loved.
Grandpa never shied away from hard work. I don't recall a pair of pants without a hole. The man was an unstoppable force — if it didn't fit the first time, go fetch him a bigger hammer.
I spent youthful summer days yanking weeds in Grandpa's garden. I also loaded hay bales with my cousins in underwear-sticking hot temperatures. Grandpa paid us too high of wages for such low return on teenager investment.
While the Andrew Jackson temporarily enriched my pocket, Grandpa was the real payoff. The sheer strength in that one arm; he was Hercules in bib overalls. It was his character, however, that was stronger than any handshake.
Grandpa had every right to be a bitter man. He almost died. His livelihood was literally ripped from him. But as I stood before his casket last week, I recalled his laughter — a sound not unlike a hit-and-miss engine.
It was a loud, unapologetic laugh that shook his entire body, including each left shirt-sleeve sewn closed by Grandma. Friends jokingly called him the one-arm bandit; he even had a hat emblazoned with those words.
Grandpa spent his last years on the family farm. His mind was oftentimes frail, but his one-arm grip could still snag a great-grandchild. I'd loved to have seen him up on the old Allis-Chalmers tractor, but those summer days were gone.
For nearly 70 years, Grandpa did everything with one hand. He used it to plant and pray, sign land contracts and birthday cards. I had the honor to carry him to his final resting place, right handed. I hope to be half as strong as Grandpa Ira — and that has nothing to do with handshakes.