Mostly, though, I remember ... nothing. It's sitting on his porch, driving in his car, toting his golf clubs and simply enjoying his presence. It's watching him don reading glasses to shuck every last silken thread from that evening's corn on the cob. It's watching him silently weed his garden. It's savoring the best days of my life: a week in the summer at Grandma and Grandpa's.

He is not even my real grandfather. My grandfather by blood was killed in one of the last battles of World War II, leaving behind a widow and a toddler who would 30 years later be my mother.

Between marrying that widow and adopting that toddler and now, he lived and breathed small-town baseball as player, coach and statesman. He turned my two uncles into college stars, one of whom almost made it to The Show. Not even Grandpa could turn my brother and I into decent ballplayers, but he made us connoisseurs. And even my mother regularly listens to A's games and knows her Ernie Banks from her Henry Aaron.

He saw the first generation of my family go to college. The pitcher became a lawyer; the catcher, a teacher; and my mother, a financial planner. And he taught them values of family ­ the real kind, not the dogmatic kind showboated by politicians and other charlatans.