Lessons from Grandpa

Today my Grandpa turns 92!  To celebrate I figured I'd write out the life lessons I have learned from him....

1.  Better Late Than Never

  • My grandfather and I didn't have much of a relationship most of my life beyond the birthday phone call which lasted a minute or so.  When my Nana was sick and they moved close by, he and I had more time together and started developing a relationship.  Since my Nana passed away in 2011, my Grandpa moved back to New Jersey but we have spoken weekly for years.  I never thought he and I would have much of a relationship but I was wrong.  I treasure our weekly talks and how he looks forward to talking with me and my family:-)  It's better late than never to build that relationship with your loved one(s).

2.  Laughter and song are essentials in life

  • Growing up, our conversations though brief, usually included Grandpa sharing a joke or singing a quick song about something silly.  I tend to be on the serious side (if you hadn't gathered that already;-), but my Grandpa was always sure to try and make us laugh with a joke or song which I love about him...and something he still does to this days when we talk.  I love hearing him tell my kids the same jokes or sing the same songs to them as he did to me when I was a kid.  Laughter and song are essentials in life!

3.  Learning someone's story teaches you a lot

  • For most of my life I was a bit bitter to the lack of attention and love I received from my Grandpa.  As I have spent time talking with my Grandpa through the years, he has shared many of his life's stories.  Learning about my Grandpa's past, like losing his mother, experiences he had in the service, and more, have opened my eyes to his truth and have given me more compassion towards him.  His stories have taught me a lot about him and why he was the way he was.  I love him for loving me the best he could.

4.  Meals are a gift

  • I remember when my grandparents were living with my parents I made my Grandpa lunch.  I made him a sandwich with a piece of fruit and tea.  When I placed it down beforehand his response was less than pleased saying,  "What is all this?!"  I said, "Your lunch."  He replied, "My lunch?  There is enough here for both of us."  He then informed me half a sandwich was plenty for him and my super sized cup of tea would be better placed in a mug that didn't require two hands to lift it:-)  He taught me that day that we eat too much and his generation knows how to eat what they need and nothing more.  Just because everything is available does not mean we need it or that it is beneficial to us.  A simple meal for my 6 foot plus lean framed Grandpa would be enough fuel for him.
  • Sitting with my Grandpa the last time I visited, I was reminded at how meal times are a special time.  He goes to his table to sit and eat.  He doesn't stand or rush through.  He slowly unwraps his 1/2 sandwich and fruit that was packed by my uncle that morning.  He chews every bite.  He is present. No technology present to distract him.  Meal time is a gift from the company you share it with to each bite of food.

5.  Make time to talk with or visit your loved ones

  • Our lives can be busy.  But at the end of my life I want to look back with gratitude and have a content, joyful heart.  I don't want to look back with regrets.  Taking time to talk with my Grandpa, and visit him, are moments I won't get back - or regret.  He is always so happy to hear our voice on the other end of the phone and the times we have visited (which is much less that I would like to admit) he beams with joy seeing our family.  I know sport seasons and children's commitments can take over - but let's not let them take over from talking or visiting our loved ones, building those precious relationships and teaching them about their family history. 

6.  Read, read, read

  • My Grandpa has a stack of library books next to him at ALL times.  Every time I talk my Grandpa shares the latest books he is reading.  He gets large printed books so he can see better.  I love how he is dedicated to keeping his mind engaged in books, can share the stories with me he is reading, and is a life-long learner.
  • On a side note, one of the best gifts I have received in life is my Grandpa read my book, My Journey to Live From the Inside Out.  I didn't have a large print version available so he spent months reading it with a magnifying glass - each and every word.  To say that my Grandpa read my book will always be a treasure in my heart and one of my greatest life moments was to hear him say that he liked it and was proud of me...and that I have a lot to say:-)

7. Be honest

  • Whether it is his age or just who my Grandpa is, he is an honest man whether you want to hear it or not.  It is a simple life lesson - to be honest with your loved ones - but one that goes a long way.

8.  Faith

  • My Grandpa spent his life dedicated to his faith and his family.  As we have talked throughout the years I have learned a little bit about his faith but his generation wasn't as talkative about their faith as my generation.  He spends his time with God and the two of them have their relationship and that is enough.  I respect that and love how even with a quiet faith, it is strong and he has shared it with his children, like my Mom - who then she shared it with me and my siblings.  Without my Grandpa raising his family with faith, I don't know that I would be where I am today in mine and for that I am forever grateful.

9.  Leave a  legacy

  • My Grandpa is a simple man, and his life's possessions fit within his basement apartment.  Yet what he treasures most are not what he has, it is the people in his life; his 5 children and their spouses, his 13 grandchildren, and his 17 great-grandchildren. Any thing he was to leave behind will be forgotten, but the people he leaves this world are some of the most loving, courageous, brave, kind-hearted, joyful, compassionate people I know.  And I believe that is a legacy he will be proud to leave behind.

I am so grateful for the life lessons I have learned from my Grandpa.  I look forward to learning more from him this year.  

With gratitude,

Shawn