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Friday, December 12, 2014

Grandpa: Remembering The Non-Regrets

Today marks two years since my Grandpa passed away. He was my dad's dad, a man I really looked up to, a grandfather who never really stopped fathering. He was a World War II veteran, and, like many of that generation, was an old-fashioned strong and silent type, but his quiet often spoke volumes.

Over this past year I've had to challenge myself not to dwell on the regrets I have about my relationship with him. It's easy to wish that I had spent more time with him or said different things or acted differently. But after a while, dwelling on these regrets just wears me down. I realized they were actually dishonoring to his memory.

So whenever I catch my thoughts wandering in that direction, I steer them a different way, into the "non-regrets." These are some of the things I'm glad I had the chance to enjoy with Grandpa while he was here.

Getting Our Ears Lowered

I don't regret going with him to get my haircut, or, as he called it, "getting my ears lowered." When I was little, maybe 5 or 6, Grandpa started a once a month tradition with me of going to get our haircut at a local barbershop. (This was before "styling salons" were popular... not that Grandpa would ever go to one.) I was scared of the barber the first time we went, but Grandpa bought me a Superman action figure when it was all done because he thought I was brave. We continued getting our hair cut together well into my teens.

Staying On Par

I don't regret all those years of golfing with him. Now, you've got to understand, Grandpa loved to golf. He'd be out on that golf course rain, snow, hurricane... always in competition with himself, challenging himself to get better so he could eventually beat his brother, Russell. I loved the long drives up to the golf course with him, enjoying a steamed hot dog in the club house afterward, and never once being able to beat him. He was never big on conversation, but I remember one day during the ride up to the golf course he give me some advice on women. "Treat 'um right," he said.

Full House

I don't regret living with my grandparents. When I moved in with them in my mid-twenties it was an opportunity to see Grandpa every day and get to know him in a whole new way. The man I saw day in and day out was consistent, optimistic, brave, and loving. I never saw him show anything but love and great respect to my Grandma. I never saw him give anything less than a warm welcome to anyone who walked into his house. Despite the illness he faced in the last few years of his life, I never saw him handle it like anything less than a champ.

When I Said "I Do"

I don't regret having Grandpa at my wedding. He passed away six months later, but the photo I have of him with me and my wife at our wedding reception is the last photo I have of us together, and I'm so glad that I was able to get my act together and settle down with a beautiful young bride before he passed away. He always wanted me to find a good woman. In fact, it seemed to perplex him that I was in my thirties and still hadn't found one to settle down with. So on my wedding day, I know I made him proud.