Monday, January 6, 2014

Remembering My Grandpa, Part 1

Papa and Brendan
As many of you know, my grandpa, who turned 90 in August, died on Christmas night. It wasn't a surprise, but that didn't make easy, either. For those who don't know, I lived with him for a couple of years in graduate school until he was put on hospice the first time (7.5 years ago, after which he was kicked off because he was doing so well). This gave me the rare opportunity to really get to know my grandpa well, in a way that many people don't get to know their grandparents.

One of the ways I have long known he impacted me was by living according to his priorities. Those who know me know I'm pretty ambitious. I've long derived a lot of meaning from the things I've done and accomplished.

My grandpa (I named him "Papa") didn't have a prestigious career (he retired from a department store selling window dressings). He served in WWII, married my grandma, moved to California (both grew up on Ohio farms with numerous siblings), and went to art school. As Papa and I would go to weekly Biblical Archaeology Society meetings, he would sometimes talk about how he wished he had gotten a PhD in one of these fields. But he ended his higher education in order to make sure his family had enough money once kids came along.

He retired before I can remember him working. But how often does a grandkid really think about his grandfather's career and status? I have a good friend whose grandpa is well known and who I respect. I've sometimes thought about what it would be like to live under that shadow (and I've heard stories). Then I've compared that to my relationship with my grandpa. Would I have loved Papa more or respected him more if he had done all these amazing things? I can't imagine that I would. In fact, I probably would have loved him less because he would have been around less and therefore I wouldn't have known him as well.

As I hear more and more stories about the personal lives of the ambitious, "accomplished" people I respect, many of their marriages and relationships have fallen apart. Sometimes numerous times. But I remember my grandparents' 50th anniversary. I think priorities have something to do with that.

So a big lesson Papa taught me (just by living his life, never explicitly) was to live out your priorities. And family and faith are my priorities, far more than career. I hope I can live up to the standard Papa set. 

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