I’ve been in a rut lately. I’m sure the inspiration has been flowing around and through me, but it’s been invisible. Maybe it’s because my grandfather passed away last week. He was (and still is) my greatest inspiration, my role model and hero. He was full of life in a way that only people in movies and books are full of life, but that’s an artificial, idealized joie de vivre. His was real.
My grandmother had a stroke nearly 10 years ago and lost almost complete control over her body. To this day, she can’t talk or walk, and she can only move one of her arms. But through all of this, through every day, my grandfather has been by her side in the nursing home, spending all of his time with her, caring for her, loving her. And I think it’s this above all of his other amazing qualities, this complete, unconditional love that I admired most about him.
I’ll remember the way he slid down the driveway on a snow shovel when he was in his late 80s.
I’ll remember the way he put his yoga classes to use by folding himself up to fit inside a cardboard box, just for fun. (Also in his late 80s, maybe it was even his early 90s?)
I’ll remember the way he leapt from an out of control golfcart – just another day on the green. (he was definitely in his 90s then)
This is how he will be remembered, the man made legend. At his memorial service, all of these stories were told. His life became a collection of all the exciting moments that defined his sense of humor and his passion for life. We remembered the cowboy hat he often wore, the one that held the key to his rugged youth, stationed alone on top of a mountain as a fire tower look-out. We remembered how he was always smiling, always genuinely happy to be wherever he was.
These are the stories that will be passed down for generations. But his unconditional love is what I’ll always remember. That’s the story I will tell. I will tell how each day he sat by my grandmother’s side, keeping her company, feeding her, holding her hand – not because he felt it was his duty, but because he wanted to be there, to be with her.