My grandfather was born premature during a time where his survival uncertain and quite precarious, and he served in the Navy from 1943-1946, and built the home that he and my grandmother raised their family in. He never had idle hands–my grandpa worked for the same company for 40 years, and in retirement worked and volunteered at a local school to help kids with their reading, eventually starting a scholarship fund for students of the school that want to become special education teachers.
He was many things in his life to many people–more that I could probably think of to list, or could even categorize easily. Son, Brother, Student, Sailor, Uncle, Friend, Husband, Lover, Father, Musician, Carpenter, Teacher, Grandfather, Great-grandfather. While I’ve always known these things, I have to say that I’ve never really thought about my grandpa in any role but that of my grandpa until after his death, when going through old pictures of his life.
My cousin and I welcomed our assignment of the task of assembling pictures into photo collages for his visitation and funeral, as our contribution and tribute. We giggled over the outfit his mother dressed him in as a baby and were surprised to see that he was pretty darn good looking in his younger years. I found my heart melting over a picture that showed how much in love my grandparents were until my grandmother’s death (though that didn’t mean their lives or marriage were easy) and I laughed at pictures of my apron-clad grandpa in the kitchen (somehow I’d forgotten that some of my fondest times were cooking up special treats with him–fudge, cake, rice krispy treats). Having been somewhat inspired to join the Navy (over other branches of the military) by my grandfather’s sea stories, I was delighted to find a picture of him in uniform.
We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
This, I think, is a statement my grandfather would support wholeheartedly. He firmly believed that life is for the living, that it should be lived in love and faith, and lived to to its fullest–ability or disability be damned. He was a man who valued independence and lived on his own until the injury that finally put him in the hospital (despite being 87, blind and hard of hearing), but as a child of the Depression, he understood the helplessness of poverty and believed in offering a helping hand to those that needed one. My grandfather was a man of great faithfulness (he and my grandmother were married for 45 years through both good times and bad) and greater faith–faith in a transcendent God, and just as great of a faith in the imminent presence of God in humanity. When I told him of my change of religious perspective, his response was, “Honey, I think God is big enough for there to be as many ways to experience Him as there are people on Earth.”
*this post is dedicated to my grandfather, whose infinite love and faith continue to surround those that knew him, may he rest in peace*
MRC, July 11, 1924-July 11, 2011