Sunday, December 16, 2007

Remembering Grandpa

We spent the day at my parents' house today, an early Christmas dinner with my two grandmothers -- both widows. I never had the opportunity to meet my mom's dad, sadly. And my dad's father, Grandpa Mitchell, passed a way several years ago. We all miss him so much.

Saying that Grandpa had a big impact on my life is quite honestly an understatement. He had a huge impact, and I'd like to tell you a little about him.

I think about Grandpa quite a bit these days -- often when I'm about to make a difficult decision or major life choice. He was wise and consistent -- a man who valued family, integrity, hard work. Sometimes strict, but always compassionate. That was my Grandpa.

My siblings and I sometimes find ourselves asking "What do you think Grandpa would have done?" And I especially wonder if he'd be proud of me now. What would he think about my writing? Would he be excited to know that I've just finished a book? But most of all, I'd like him to meet my son, Carson James. (James was my Grandfather's name).

I got a little lump in my throat tonight when my Grandmother pulled out some old photos of him -- an unexpected Christmas surprise sent to her by one of my Grandpa's Marine Corps buddies who he served with in the South Pacific during World War II. I thought about what a blast from the past this must have been for her -- to see my Grandfather so youthful and handsome, years before she had met him. It was kind of like coming across a time capsule -- but so much better. As she showed me these photos tonight, posted above and below, she talked about my Grandpa -- how they met, how she can still remember him standing across the room at that party looking dashing with his dark hair and handsome grin. And even now, her eyes well up with tears when she talks about this man -- a love that endures beyond the grave, and I'm convinced, will continue through eternity.

So tonight, I'm thinking about Grandpa. I wrote his obituary when he passed, and while it was packed with the facts of his life, there wasn't room for the special things I wished I could say. And these are what come to mind:

*Grandpa taught me how to work. And, I don't mean rake-the-leaves work (though I did my fair share of that!). He taught me the value of work (along with my parents, of course) -- the joy of work.

*Grandpa was generous -- both with his time and his resources. He passed out silver dollars like candy (candy we worked for, of course!), and would welcome me into his "office" where I'd watch him work for hours. As a result, I developed a fascination with sticky notes and office supplies at a young age.

*Grandpa cared for the poor. There was always someone that he was helping. Someone who was down on his luck, someone who needed to earn some money -- someone he could help. He tirelessly gave his time, energy, and resources to the St. Vincent DePaul organization. And he has inspired me, and many others, to remember the poor among us.

*Grandpa made the best pancakes. If I close my eyes, I can picture it: Grandpa, cast-iron skillet in hand; Grandma, blending up orange juice ("Orange Julius" she called it); my sister and brothers and I at the kitchen table; the seagulls calling outside the window; the sound of the waves hitting the beach; smiles all around.

*Grandpa loved his wife. He put her first, and made sure everyone knew that was the way it was. Grandpa came first, period. Theirs was and is an enduring love.

We miss you Grandpa, and love you.


sal said...

i soooo feel with you. i never met my mom's dad, and my dad's dad is like, my best friend on the planet. he left the US when I was 14 to return to his homeland w/grandma and i still call them every week. he changed my life and was truly my second dad. i know he's still alive but it's very, very hard on me having him so far away. thank you for this very thoughtful post.

Melissa said...

What a great tribute! I lost my own dad a few years ago, so my future children will never know him, but he'll live on in stories. And hopefully my husband's father can make an impression like your beloved grandfather did--how wonderful to see those photos!

edie said...

My grandpa taught me a lot of similar lessons; the value of work, generosity, unselfishness and the importance of integrity. You've reminded me of how fortunate I am to have had such a teacher. Thank you for such a moving and thoughtful post.