Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Litany of Life Lessons.

A Litany of Life Lessons.

Throughout the course of our lives we are granted any number of precious moments with which to treasure. Frozen little jewels that, much like seeds, imbed in us the cornerstones that will inevitably shape the foundation of what we will become. They can be as simple and innocuous as a phrase or as involved as a deep heartfelt discussion. Whatever form they take, we owe it to ourselves and those who made such an impact on us to reflect on them from time to time.

For me, I try to do so as often as I can. But try as you might there are those situations that prompt you to review the scope of influence that some important people have wielded on your life.

Right now, I find myself deep in thought about the effect my Grandfather has had over my life – and, by extension my own Mother as well. Perhaps it is only fitting with the impending holiday approaching. Truth be told; his rapidly declining health keeps my mind trained on the topic of his life.

For as long as I can recall my Grandfather has been an idealized hero to my eyes. In reality I am well aware that he is merely mortal and just as fallible as anyone else. However, even that logic seems faulty to me as an adult though. By my own reckoning he is the closest thing to everything a saint, a knight, even a kingly man should be.

I never was afforded the luxury of getting to know my Father’s father. Unfortunately, he passed away just shy of a year before I was born. That said the only knowledge I have of the man is from little anecdotes and insight others have offered me. In sharp contrast my Mother’s father was the only grandfather I have ever known.

As a young man I spent many weekends and holidays spending time at my Grandfather’s house. Around the age of 7 my family moved out of the city limits and into the county to put us just over 2 miles from my Grandfather if you go by road. Adventurous boys quickly discovered other avenues by way of woodland trails and the like to cut that distance over time. For us the whole experience of visiting my Grandfather was best described as something magical.

For quite some time we were limited from freely exploring all areas of the house – a decision I can respect in hindsight. Even so, with time our curiosity grew along with our trust and little by little we were allowed to sleep upstairs and investigate all manner of things. We rode to job sites with my Grandfather and watched as he put hammer and nail to use to make masterfully crafted things out of wood. We escorted him and his beloved German Shepherd Mack to the vet for shots. As both the Song Leader and Caretaker of our church we even joined him countless times and endeavored to aid him in his regular duties.

I have spoken before about being introduced to chestnuts thanks to the chestnut trees that grew on my Grandfather’s yard. I’ve even mentioned his dutiful service to his country when called during World War II. I may have even had a word or two to spare about his hard working nature and handicraft regarding building things from wood – especially his own home in point of fact. But there are a number of things I may never have taken the time to talk about.

In retrospect I don’t think I would have ever become a writer at all if not for my Grandfather. A single example is etched into my memory; an image of me setting cross-legged in his living room floor with paper and pencil. I was working on a story about a ‘white knight,’ all shining armor and pure hero. Now, my Grandfather isn’t the most educated man in the world but he is far from being anyone you might say is lacking in mental ability. He asked me a little about the project my attention was focused on, then with a smile and a nod encouraged me to keep up the good work.

That single passing instance was perhaps the first thing that provided me forward momentum to push myself. If he thought that what I was doing was good work then who was I to argue? It was his personal motto that if something was worth doing then it was worth doing right the first time. And to his credit I have never once seen or heard a single soul ever having to ask him to redo any of his work, much less complain about its quality. I have always tried to work towards the same standards, even though my own skills might not be equal to his.

When my Grandmother suffered a stroke my Grandfather stopped working to try and care for her. My Mother, a nurse herself, did likewise and they moved in with us. Without any real thoughts or complaints my Brother and I offered up our bedroom. We basically lived in a corner of our living room for a time, helping out in any way that we could. Sadly, during my freshman year of high school my Grandmother passed away. She did so with all of us by her side and as I watched on with her husband always there. He never once shirked from his duty, never once acted anything other than dignified and shouldered every burden without complaint or regret.

He never returned to work. Everyone thought that he might simply give up and soon join his wife – but much as he had always advised he never gave up. Once he returned to his home it was a daily task of mine to deliver a meal to him. It was a highlight to my day as I would sit with him for a stretch and just talk about anything he wanted to. Although he never was able to take me under his wing and teach me even a portion of the carpenter’s trade as I had often dreamed he always had the time to give me advice on how to build or fix something. He would even encourage me to borrow various tools of his to do so.

But even though he never was able to teach me how to be a carpenter like him he taught me something far more precious. He showed me how to be a man. He educated me in dignity and honor – even when wearing simple working clothes. From him I learned to never flinch from a smashed thumb, a stabbing splinter or a sore back if there was a job to finish. Even in the face of so much sadness at the loss of a loved one he taught me to hold my head high and show them the respect they deserved.

In summary, I have found that I may have said it best when I dedicated my book ‘Metal In The Moonlight’ to him;

Dedicated to my beloved Grandfather; a more honest, honorable and simply strong character of a man I have never known. May we all be blessed to have such a handy hammer in our lives to help build us into a better man or woman.

I am deeply honored, blessed and humbled to have ever had such a teacher and example in my life. To all who knew him or have been touched by his life I can only pray they value his influence in their life as I do. He deserves to be remembered and respected – even if he would never ask for any such attention.