Grandpa’s Big Red Truck

Dedicated to Robert Eugene Frieden (my Grandpa)
April 19, 1920 – November 13, 2013
Whenever I see an fuel/oil delivery truck I think of my Grandpa.
For that matter, whenever I smell gasoline, I think of my Grandpa.
You see, I spent many a summer day riding in his big red truck as he made his oil and fuel deliveries. These are some of the words I shared at his funeral 6 years:
There are moments in one’s life that no one wants to experience, but in living them you simply acknowledge that you are honored or privileged to be a part of the moment … my experience with my grandfather’s life was just that … an honor and privilege.
We shared something … a name … more precisely initials … REF.  F – Frieden; E- Eugene; and my R was Rodney. That’s REF like my Grandpa (Robert) like my Dad (Ronald) and like my son (Riley).
I haven’t always embraced that commonality.  There was a time I didn’t want to be a Rodney … I wanted to be Rod and I certainly never wanted to be a Eugene.
The important thing in all of this is that growing up I wanted to be like my Grandpa (not my Dad).
I wanted to drive a big red truck like my Grandpa. 

I wanted to be as strong as my Grandpa.

I wanted everyone to like me like they liked my Grandpa. It seemed everyone knew him and that everyone was his friend.

I hoped to one day know as much about everything like my Grandpa seemingly did.

I even wanted my hair to be wavy just like Grandpa.

My Grandpa was one of the coolest people I knew and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

After all what’s not to like about a man that makes ice cream and fudge, hides candy by his bedside, and drives a big red truck!

As I grew older, dreams of driving a truck changed. I even gave up on having wavy hair – the length of my hair became an ongoing debate for me and my Grandpa (it was never short enough for him). I also discovered my own interests and those weren’t always the same as Grandpa’s.  Heck, we didn’t even root for the same baseball team – He the Cubs and me the Reds!  But even as my dreams grew and changed, one thing remained the same – I still wanted to grow up to be just like my Grandpa – honest, caring, selfless, strong of will, gentle of spirit, a man of quiet yet strong faith – a man of integrity.

Today (like most fathers), I struggle with the task of raising a son who thinks his Grandpa is way cooler than his own Dad. But the lessons I learned growing up have become the key to living with that frustration.

What I have learned is that if I can teach my son to be proud of his name Riley Eugene Frieden and the stories and heritage that have come before it … If I can remember to teach him about the man who started this tradition — not what he did, but who he was and what he stood for … If I can do that, I will succeed in teaching my son the most important lessons in life:

When you grow up, Grow up to be just like your great grandpa and your grandpa – that’s what I have tried to do. Learn to say your name with pride and hold your head high.

You are a Frieden … an R E Frieden and that means you share a something with the man I have called Grandpa all my life.
Learn to be like him and you will become a man of Honesty, a man of Caring thoughts, a man of selfless action, a man who was strong of will and gentle of spirit, a man of integrity, and a man of quiet yet strong faith.

Some will ask what’s so important about a a name?

The answer is not much unless that name was R E Frieden and then it can mean everything.

Thanks for that lesson Grandpa.

You never taught that to me … you just lived it every day.


I am a United Methodist Pastor and have the privilege of serving as the Senior Pastor for the church of my childhood. I preach in a place I once was an acolyte. I love to preach, but more importantly I love to teach. I firmly believe that Faith Matters and should affect how we live. This blog is a place where I come to share the randomness that is life and faith ... and the intersection of the two.

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