I always try to make up some type of formula to remember the birthdays of people I love. For my Grandpa George, it was 24/8 (instead of 24/7) because 7 days were simply not enough for all that he did for us. Today I reflect on what would have been his 71st birthday. If he was here, we would be celebrating with a feast that at least included fried cabbage and chitlins. Grandpa George was a good, no-nonsense kinda guy. He always reminded me of a character straight from the pages of a Walter Mosley book. He operated in facts, but every now and then he would let his feelings shine through with a well-chosen Hallmark card. Even when it came to cancer, he underwent procedures to prolong his life. When the chemo only worsened his condition, he accepted his fate and warned us not to make any plans. Unfortunately we lost him on 8/8 a mere 3 weeks before my wedding. I still have his addressed invitation as a keepsake. Below are some of my mom’s reflections from his life.
Trying to honor my father via this post, I thought I’d share memories of my time with him throughout my life. Though I only lived in the same house with my dad for a very brief period, my nuggets are far too many to share in a post. Yet, I believe I can share the essence of my dad and how he has influenced my life. I can’t believe I can give you the entire sum of him, but I can tell you what I see: his actions that are his words to me.
I realized a couple of years of ago that my father was patient with me. When I was in elementary school, I called my father by his first name, George. That seems so disrespectful to me now, but he never complained about it. He understood that because we had lived apart for several years prior, the relationship was perhaps not there to warrant a more endearing term, and so he didn’t try to force it. I wonder what he must have felt to hear me say his name… I don’t know what he felt. I don’t know that he was patient in other areas of his life. I just know he was patient with me, and I eventually came to call him Dad.
My dad’s generosity to me and my children is unparalleled. Mind you, my dad had one child; I have three! He sponsored not only Christmas for my children, but also birthdays, especially for the baby boy. And rarely did I have to ask. I don’t know that he was generous with everyone, but he was generous with me… and mine.
My dad is one of the most humble people I’ve ever known. We may be in that group where we have or know a lot of people who attended college. The number of people who played sports while in college is fewer. Those who played on a collegiate football team is fewer still… and those who made it to The Rose Bowl is very small. Finally those who were on the winning team on the field defending the last possible points of the game as a defensive end?? Yep. That’s my dad. Yet, was that a topic of his conversation? Nope. It was a topic of other folks’ conversation. And maybe he wasn’t such a humble person with other people, but he taught me humility. I think he taught me as well that accomplishments in the past are just that: in the past.
Of course, there are a flood of memories that show how he has influenced my life. He introduced me to Puzo’s The Godfather before the movie as well as John LeCarre. I love movies because we went to see the Big Ones together: Shaft, the original (yes, I was too young!), Kramer Vs. Kramer, Star Wars, Close Encounters… to name but a few. I love horseback riding and tennis because of him.
He has a devilish smile and a snorting laugh! He listened intently as I raved about an NPR story that I thought was simply fascinating!
Of course, he is past tense now. Yet, I am so grateful for my memories.
My dad didn’t plan on being my dad. Yet, he stepped up to the plate in his way. He enriched my life by spending time with me. He improved the quality of my life by loving me. I did not want this post to be about my loss because it is my truth every day. I wanted it to be about his example of patience, generosity, and humility because it was his truth every day.