He lived on a farm in a very small town. Growing up my mother told me how the men used to raise their coffee cups in the air for the women to fill. And that the men and women ate in shifts- the men ate first and then the women ate. Thankfully my mom and aunt modernized these practices quickly.
My grandfather loved fishing, hunting, gardening and playing cards with his family. During our visits to his farm, I did not spend a lot of time with him. Sometimes I was in the kitchen with my aunt, grandmother and mom. Other times I was out shooting rockets, climbing trees and looking for deer and turkeys with my dad and brother.
Although I didn’t spend a lot of time with my grandfather, he taught me three very important lessons that I will pass on to our children.
1. Don’t take your health for granted. My grandfather was diagnosed with polio in 1950. He constantly struggled to stand up, walk around, and do everyday things. Seeing him suffer reminded me just how lucky I was to be living without chronic pain.
2. The value of an education. My grandfather did not go to college and my grandmother did not go to high school. When I was a kid, it was clear that they truly valued my and my cousins’ education. And that they were very excited and proud to see me go off to college and graduate school. My grandparents rarely left their community, but they valued an education so much that they would travel out of state for graduations.
3. Enjoy time with family. When I think about my grandfather, I think about him playing sheepshead with a table full of relatives and talking about his hunting and fishing adventures. Even when he couldn’t hear well. Even when he was in pain. My grandfather found happiness simply by being surrounded by people who loved him.