I've had the privilege of lots of good men in my life. In addition to my Dad, my exes (husbands and boyfriends... yes, they were good, too), teachers, coaches, and the love of my life, David, there was my Grandpa.
Of course he wasn't perfect, but he did a few things perfectly. For one, he did not force his will on my Mom. He let her make her own choices about what to do with her life, even when he didn't agree with or understand those choices. Of course this had an impact on me, because I was raised by that woman. A woman who is allowed to make her own choices and understands that she is responsible for accepting the consequences of those choices, for better or for worse, is going to raise children with the same qualities of character. And I'm so grateful for that.
Grandpa had a perfect sense of home. His farm was a part of him. From him I learned a deep respect for nature and animals, and out of that love came many years covered in horse and cow manure and sweat from good old-fashioned country living. I think my natural seat on a horse and affinity for agricultural things was something I inherited from my Grandpa. Whether or not those things can be inherited doesn't matter. I felt (and still do feel) most deeply connected to my roots with the smell of leather and hay and horse in my nostrils.
From my Grandpa I learned the art of stillness and the value of silence. Once of my most vivid memories is sitting beside him while he smoked, not saying a word, watching the sun sink down to meet the horizon. I wasn't conscious of The Tao or the value of just being in the moment at that time, but I instinctively followed his lead, not needing to fill the silence with conversation or the stillness with activity. It was a gift to be able to see someone truly present in the now. The word that defines those moments for me is PEACE.
From my Grandpa, I learned about tenderness. The way he held my Grandma's hand when she was dying, the gentle way he spoke to her and called her "Mom," awakened in me something I'd long been missing. Yes they acted like a typical old married couple most of the time, but that was only one tiny facet of the complex and long-lasting relationship they had. That was another thing my Grandpa did perfectly in my eyes: he helped my Grandma take her final steps from this world to the next in the most loving way possible. And how I adored and loved him for what I saw in those final moments of my Grandma's life... and how I knew that I wanted that same sort of love and connection with another person in mine.
Thank you, Grandpa. You were the perfect Grandpa for me. Everything that I am today is what I have built on the solid foundation formed by my family.
Rest in peace. I'll see you when I see you...
(I'm the big kid in the pictures.)