My grandfather died over 20 years ago, and although there were many times when I did think of him as I went about my daily life, the days I didn’t do that outnumber the former by far. Which isn’t to say he wasn’t important to me. Next to my father, he has been the the most important male role model in my life.
Life, as they say, finds a way. It finds a way to mess you up and go smoothly and then just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it’ll find a way to make you humble and take you down a peg. Or three. Or more. If you go and read my posts, or if you ever did read these, my mom commented on a couple of them, and she’s now been gone for almost a year. I tell myself I’m fine and on some level, the most important one, anyway, I am. Because life finds a way. In spite of the the suck. In spite of the answers to questions that will forever remain unanswered. In spite of things being incomplete. Life finds a way to go forward.
So I am here, and every day I think about my mom. And I think about how she’s gone to be with her brother and her dad. My grandpa. And I think about my grandpa now. I’m sure he’d be proud of me, and not just because we share the same name. We’ve done some of the same things, made some similar choices. He taught me a lot. Probably more than he knew at the time. Definitely more than I knew in those days.
Forgiveness. I was riding a bike next to his car once, and the pedals smacked into the hubcap of his car. The hubcap popped off, and I was sure that I’d done something terrible. I was sure I was going to get killed when I had to tell him what I did. The thing about my grandpa was, he was not a big man, but he was hard. When people talk about wanting to be strong, they work out and look at Arnold… My grandpa was strong without looking like Arnold. There was no showmanship in his strength. His strength needed no headlines or fanfare. He’d fall asleep outside in the Chicago summer and get sunburned. The sun would then run for its life, having inadvertently burned this man.
He took the news calmly, grabbed a hammer or mallet from his workshop and walked outside. I knew I needed to follow. He looked at the car, picked up the hubcap, and instead of crushing me with the hammer, he whacked the hubcap right back onto the wheel. Fixed. Relief swept over me like a wave.
I will probably never be that strong or conduct myself with that discipline. I’m actually ok with that most of the time, but he showed me what forgiveness meant better than any priest ever could.