My grandfather was a great man. He was kind, patient, dependable, and no matter what, funny. Even in the emergency room at age 89, days before his death, he had me in stitches.
Frail, confused, scared, and physically uncomfortable, he waited over 9 hours in the cold, chaotic ER to be admitted and finally settle into a quiet and warm room. My mother took the first half of the shift waiting with him, and I was lucky enough to take the latter half, lasting until 1:00am. We were so excited when the nurse told us his room was finally ready, we both looked like we won the lottery and I took a selfie to send to my family.
That was my Gramps. He was always game for smiles and laughs, even in a hospital gown, even afraid and knowing this is where he may soon die.
My grandfather was from a generation almost long gone. He belonged to a cohort valuing honesty, politeness, hard work, and service. He tolerated the uncomfortable, usually with a smile, and humbly tried his best, taking pride in any task he took on. When things did not go his way, he took it upon himself to strategize and fix it, not expecting others to accommodate his suffering.
Through example, my Gramps taught me several life lessons:
LAUGH OFTEN – No matter the situation, Gramps had a joke. Sometimes they were eye-roll and groan-worthy, and sometimes his irreverence would surprise and delight us with a good, hard belly laugh. Even when taking care of my grandmother in her last days and through his despair, Gramps never stopped trying to tickle her funny bone.
TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES – I cannot think of a single time Gramps did not follow through or keep his word. He was dependable and if he said he would show up, he would. Not only was he a man of his word, he also took pride in doing well.
When he moved into a home, now matter how nice, he made improvements. When I was a child, he told me the importance of always leaving a place you lived in better condition than when you moved in. Gramps also left the people who knew him better for having known him. His influence and the time I spent with him beautified my life.
BE CONSIDERATE – Gramps was old-school and midwestern, which means that he followed the rule: Be polite. No matter what, Gramps was polite. Even in his assisted living facility, or when the nurses in the hospital shuffled his body around causing him more pain, Gramps thanked them and tried to “not be too much trouble.”
Gramps was patient and determined to believe that everyone was doing their best. He gave others the benefit of the doubt and always smiled and remembered his “pleases” and “thank you’s.”
When I think of times spent with Gramps, I smile. I think of him taking off his glasses and shouting, “Tah-dah!” when I was little and afraid of men wearing glasses. I think of him belting out, “Amanda Grace” (my first and middle name) to the tune of Amazing Grace just to be silly and make me smile. I think of him jingling the Tic Tacs in his suit jacket pocket on the way to church and pacing around the house while waiting for my grandmother to get ready to go.
I think about him taking me on nature walks and being able to identify every type of tree and bird, even though I was too young to pay attention and appreciate his knowledge. I remember him making a fuss about Gram’s amazing cooking at every single dinner.
He seemed to have so much gratitude. I remember him making me laugh when visiting him at his home and in the hospital, and the way he said “Thank you” and smiled whenever I kissed him on the cheek.
I know that Gramps influenced my life in a meaningful way and I am better for having been a part of his family. I love you, Gramps.
Listen to the audio version here.