The Reason I Always Have Something to Look Forward To: Grandpa Denis

I am excited about this post, yet nervous all at the same time. “Why?” you may ask. Well all of the following is based on second-hand knowledge.

You see, today marks the 35th anniversary of my Grandpa Denis Rihn’s death. I am just over half of that time in years; therefore I never had the opportunity to meet him. But wow, was he handsome or what?!? The picture above is from their honeymoon to Bandera!

Since I was old enough to understand death and heaven and earth, I have known who will be waiting for me when I pass. That is my Grandpa Denis. Perhaps this is why I have never feared death. Granted, I have never been in danger of it, but in general it just doesn’t come to mind.

Obviously I want to stay here on earth with those I love as long as possible, but at the same time, I can’t wait to meet my grandpa! While in college, I took enough anthropology and political science classes to be told way too many times that my faith is a make-believe story used to manipulate my actions. But I’m okay with being told this a thousand more times, quite frankly. I choose to believe because I have something to look forward to.

Grandpa Denis and Granny were married in 1957. Little did they know, or maybe they really did, over the next 22 years they would have a table-full of kids: five daughters and three sons. My mom was in the eighth-grade, if I remember correctly, when her dad passed away. I remember her telling me that she was called out of P.E. to the office, where she found out. From that day on, a chord had been struck inside of me. I can’t imagine the courage it took her to continue. I know that life goes on, but I just can’t fathom what would be going through my mind if I were in that situation.

It humbles me to know that I have never been through such pain.

But you have to understand one thing about our family: we live, love, laugh and persevere! Anyone who knows me, knows that I will do just about anything for my family. When it all boils down, I took a job in San Antonio to be closer to them. I’d rather spend my Saturday nights sitting around the patio with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents then go out to a party or concert. Probably why when I think of who my best friends are, I think immediately of my family.

dad & daughter

Grandpa Denis & Aunt Amy

Driving into work this morning, I was thinking about Grandpa. For instance, I wonder what he would have wanted us to call him. He only got the chance to meet one of his grandkids. So I’ll have to ask Granny what he thought about that. Because I am hoping it wouldn’t have been Grandpa. Either him or Grandpa Tschirhart would have had to come up with something different, because it is hard enough to distinguish between the two even in this short post! Just kidding I would have loved to call him anything and everything and give him a big ole hug!

Anyways, I know as he looks down on us, he’s pretty darn proud.

A husband and a wife turns into eight kids fast. And eight kids turned into 18 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren in no time at all!

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I would put money that our big family what he ideally had in mind from the start. I mean we are indeed big enough to have two softball teams with plenty of runners for the old farts!

Talking about Grandpa reminds me of reading a novel, in that, I never saw him in person. I have never heard his voice or tone. I didn’t get to witness faces he made when he was happy, surprised, annoyed, upset, proud, etc. So it’s sort of like when you read a book you are using your imagination to an extent to piece together the details.

Luckily, when we get together as a family and the beer-drinking takes us into the night, the good stories usually come out. I only wish I would remember to record them!

My Tschirhart grandparents were good friends with my Granny and Grandpa Rihn. In fact, my granny and grandma lived in San Antonio together and both worked downtown for the telephone company. I talked with Grandma and Grandpa today about Grandpa Denis. Each time I hear anything about him, I am all ears. Every little detail just adds a layer to the character in my head!GrandpaDenis12

So picture this: it’s right around 1956 in Castroville, Texas. It’s a hot, Sunday afternoon in August just after the St. Louis Church picnic. A new Elvis Presley movie is at the Rainbow Theater, the movie may have been Love Me Tender. And four of those attendees are all of my grandparents. They were on a double-date of sorts. My grandma is pretty sure it may have been one of Granny and Grandpa Rihn’s first dates. A number of double-dates would follow. However, Grandpa made it clear it was always Joyce and Marian (my granny and grandma) that wanted to go to the movies. Grandpa (Alex) said him and Denis (my grandpa Rihn) would have been just as happy just drinking beer!

I have always considered myself extremely fortunate. The good Lord blessed me with an amazing family that I know will have my back through thick and thin. Granny, Grandpa & Grandma mean the world to me. Through their stories, love and laughter I find my Grandpa Denis smiling right back at me.


  1. Alyx, that was beautifully stated by an even more beautiful young woman! My memories of your dad include meeting at the family beer joint and piling into his old pickup truck for Halloween. Rihn’s Place has always been a favorite of mine, from childhood till present. I used to beg for quarters, Grapette’s, Orange Crush’s and Big Reds there. I played pool, hide and seek, and house there. Your dad was there so much of the time. One of my favorite holiday memories is Halloween. I remember my dad and Beth Ann’s dad bringing us to the Rihn house. We would pile into the back of Denis’ truck and travel around the huge metropolis of Lacoste for hours! We had our favorite houses to visit for Trick Or Treat. We would venture into the country down lower Lacoste Road and our bags were overflowing with candy and homemade goodies.

    Denis is proudly watching his family from heaven. I love your family Cuz and we all miss him!

  2. Your Grandpa Denis was my godfather and I remember him fondly. I remember my Mom, Helen, telling me that when Uncle Denis visited us once, after I starting talking, he asked her, “Doesn’t she ever shut up?” I can remember when your Memaw and Grandpa were dating and how happy I was when I found out they were getting married because I loved your Memaw so much and I knew they would be happy together….and they were! My Dad, your Uncle Jerome, loved him and missed him terribly after he died. I remember that Uncle Denis loved, loved, loved to tease us…he just thought that was such great fun, and he would always end the teasing with his funny little giggle, thinking he was so funny. I think of him often and fondly.

  3. So glad you are writing this story. I, unfortunately, waited too long to develop an interest in my family’s past. So many questions that will never get answered. I never met my dad’s parents because they were both deceased before my parents married. I can only guess as to what kind of parents they were because I never asked my dad about them. Keep writing your beautiful stories, Alyx.

  4. Alyx this is such a heart warming stories and Your Grandpa & I can relate to it all because we were honored to know your Grandpa Denis and Granny Joyce. Joyce is one special person.

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