There are, of course, some lessons I learned in my childhood that I don’t want to overcome. They were perfect then and they’re perfect now.
I had the best Grandpa in the whole world, but sadly, as most children do, I took him for granted.
He taught me to love the outdoors. We were always outside doing something. He had a huge garden that he loved. He brought us out back to pick berries and rhubarb. He had things growing all over the place in his huge backyard.
He taught me to fish, baiting the hook with a worm, and to hike. I swam in lakes with him and fed ducks off the shore. He taught me how to play pool. I got to do non-girly things with him.
He was a mailman with a walking route. He was always on the move. Even when he sat, he had a handgrip that he squeezed opened and closed endlessly. Always in motion.
We were out walking one day, me, Grandpa, and my two brothers. It was late fall/early winter and there was snow on the ground. We were out in the woods, and we happened upon a broken piece of plastic sled. Then, a few steps forward, a snow-covered mound. The challenge was set. My brother, two years younger than me, looked at this tall mound of dirt covered with a thin layer of snow and said, “no way, I’m not doing that.” My youngest brother was too young to try. It was up to me. I grabbed that piece of broken plastic, climbed up this steep mound, sat down on the sled, and pushed off. About halfway down I caught a huge rock sticking out of the side of the mound and scraped the entire length of my thigh. An outburst of tears. A quick trip back to the house where my grandmother dripped brownish-reddish iodine all over my raw scrape and then bandaged it up. Some might be traumatized by this event, but I remember it fondly. I remember my grandpa knowing I could do anything I put my mind to. I remember him challenging me and my fear. I remember feeling worthy, whenever I was around him.
He cared. He really and truly wanted to spend time with us kids. He asked us questions and listened for the answers. He liked to bring us out into the world and show us new things, but he was also content to sit on the floor in front of the wood-burning stove, eating popcorn, and chatting with us.
I grew up in a very “children should be seen and not heard” environment. Grandpa didn’t operate that way. I think he preferred our company to anyone else’s. He never talked down to us. Real conversations and about real things. And he was a good listener.
As I got older, the outings became fewer and far between. He was big on family tradition though. Thanksgiving at their house. Boston for Christmas fun every December. The activities had to change as the years went on and places closed but we adapted and kept going. He loved our annual traditions.
His love and support never wavered. Every time I walked through their door, he had kind words for me that made me feel good. Followed up with sincere questions about my life. He cared and he showed it every time I was with him.
It’s been almost 23 years that he’s been gone. Somehow, I miss him even more now. I wish I could go back and revel more in those moments. Somehow experience them even more than I did then. Tell him how much I appreciate them and him. Tell him how much I love him.
As I get older, I spend more and more of my time the way he used to. Simply. Outdoors. Actively. This time of year always reminds me so much of him. Unlike most people, he loved to spend time outdoors in the cold. I am finding myself to be the same way.
I hate that my kids never got to experience him. Or my husband for that matter. They all would have loved him and him them.
I miss him terribly. I am forever grateful for the memories and the lessons he taught me.
- Get outside and breathe in the fresh air.
- Move your body. Keep active.
- Live off the land as much as you can.
- Kids are people too.
- Listening is all you need to show you really care.
- Family traditions are important.
- Live your life to the fullest.
Thank you for the loving lessons, Grandpa. I love you.
Until next time…