Although I admire several people in my world, there is one man that stands out above all the rest and shines bright in my eyes. I have known him all my life and he was always a constant for me. His nickname for years was Smiley. You may think that was because he smiled all the time, but this was not the case. In fact, he rarely had a smile on his face for as long as I can remember. This man had a very hard life. He was born in 1918 to a very poor family. His mother died when he was a young boy and he had to help raise his brothers. His education ended in the sixth grade. He never went back and got any other education. He started working when he was 11 and never stopped working until he died. He married young, had two boys, and was a widower at the age of 66. His marriage last almost 40 years. This man was my grandfather.
He was a tiny man, about five foot six inches and maybe weighed 120 pounds soaking wet. He wore long underwear in one hundred degree heat under his “work pants” so they wouldn’t fall off of him. He was bald and ornery. He was lovely and serious. He was forgiving. He was the most wonderful man I have ever known.
My grandfather taught me more about life than any other person. Not because he taught me how to do certain things, but because I watched him work, I watched his easy ways, his quiet mannerisms, and the rare smiles when he spoke softly to me, and his cussing up a storm when he thought nobody was around. He would be horrified if he had known I heard any of that! This man was the sweetest, most sincere person I ever knew. He smoked like a stack but never once in his whole life took a drink of alcohol.
This great man always loved me no matter what path I took in life, the long or short path, it didn’t matter. He was always there to lend an ear and love me through it all. He was a huge part of my childhood, both before and after Grandma passed. And all the years after that it seemed until the day he died. I am very fortunate I was able to take him in when things got rough for him, when he got lonely. He became that person for my own children, the one that they admired the most. He lived in our basement in his little apartment and was the biggest, most happy part of our lives for so many years.
He learned to smile and relax which was the greatest gift of all. He laughed and sang along to the radio, he chopped down trees with an axe. He mowed the grass, he weed wacked all my flowers and cut my rose bushes down because he thought they were weeds. He smacked his lips when he ate and he dribbled food everywhere. He was the BEST thing that ever happened to us. We loved him through it all because he was still teaching us things. He was teaching us patience. He was teaching us respect. He was teaching us what unconditional love was. He taught us about fear when he got lost and he taught us about joy when we found him. He taught us sorrow when we had to make him stop driving after he couldn’t find his way home. But still he gave us love. The final thing he taught us was true heartbreak when he died. But the gift he left us is our memories of what a great man should be. And that he was.
Sometimes in life when you’re learning virtues and values, the best ones are the ones you don’t realize you’re learning and the one teaching you doesn’t realize they are teaching you. He thought he was a pain, but in fact he was an inspiration, a goal in life to become just like him. And to this day I always think to myself how fortunate I am to have had him in my life for so long. There is not one person that I could admire more than my Gramps.