Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Eulogy for a Grandfather

As a young man trying to make his way in the world, I find myself asking a lot of questions. Many of these questions have been pondered by scholars around the world: Who am I? What is my purpose? And what will I accomplish in the time that I am given here? Some of those questions are a bit more cliché and grandiose: Why are we here? And what is this journey all about? When my mother broke the news to me on Thursday morning, I found my thoughts wandering to that of legacy: what do we leave behind when our journey comes to an end? A question that many of us have asked and all of us will someday ponder when the time is right. As I grieved in silence on that rainy Boston morning, my thoughts drifted to the legacy of my Grandfather. I have to be honest: I find myself intimidated when faced with a task such as this one: What can I tell you about my grandfather that many of you don’t already know? After all, I’ve only shared a sliver of his life, and many of you know the man who appears in the scrapbooks, the photo albums, and the silent films of years long gone, far better than I ever will. And though I may lack the experiences that some of you may have as a son, as a daughter, a sister, or a friend, I am honored to stand here today and share my perspective with all of you as his grandson. The man that I knew was a man of tradition. “Old Fashioned” as my mother used to say. From the time that I was a child, I remember the fond staples that marked a visit with Grandpa: being picked up by the legs and swung around like a pendulum, and being tickled to the ground while hearing that “whirring” sound, exploring the back yard and taking the secret path up to memorial park, playing with Leebie, or sifting through his National Geographic collection (at that age, I was only really interested in looking at the pictures of lightning). Granpa was a man of culture, and I believe he tried his best to share that culture with us. Between the various trips we made to Boston or Tanglewood to see the Pops, or to New York to see the Rockettes, the adventures we had down in Disney World, and history he shared with us through stories, pictures and movies, he found ways to pass on that culture, and helped us recognize the importance for it in our own lives. As we grew older, our visits were frequented with thorough discussions about Mt. Tom, the happenings around the wide world of sports, or, in my case, my latest athletic accolades. The older we were, the more we incorporated into these conversations. Academics, the happenings of the world, our individual accomplishments, and god forbid one of us brought up ANYTHING to do with politics and we were off to the races. Holidays and special events were riddled with conversations such as these, and as we found our own way to connect with our Grandfather, these special moments became our traditions. Yet, even as we grew, and even as our traditions grew with us, there are some of the classic Granpa staples that would last until the end: Every visit to Grandpa’s house was not complete without stop and shop baked cookies, and a Pepsi. No night on the town or restaurant visit would go by without Granpa insisting on taking the bill (assuming we weren’t at Jennifer’s Kitchen), and above all else, no encounter with my grandfather would ever lack that signature Granpa laugh. You know the one I’m talking about. I wish that I could speak of all of the accomplishments, and accolades that my grandfather achieved in his life, of his career and his service; of his wife, and my grandmother whom I will never know. My mother would always tell us that Granpa was a very private man. I wish that I knew more of his story beyond that which he did share with us. And though much of that story is lost to time, my Grandfather’s legacy remains: I cannot claim any of his treasures, but I do hold lessons that his life has taught me. Through his patience, I strive to look at the world with understanding and compassion. Through his wisdom, I recognize the value of character for a man’s wealth and worth come not from what he has, but who he is. Through his relationship with my mother, I have learned to recognize the significance and importance of family and loyalty, even as I continue to find my own life in the world. I see now that we are his legacy, his children and his grandchildren. What he leaves behind are the families that he loved, and the lessons that he taught us. The memories, the laugher, the impact on our lives and the moments that I will hold onto forever. And as I ponder my own journey’s end, I can only hope that I can inspire and impact the people that I will one day leave behind… For they are what truly defines a man’s legacy, just as it has for my grandfather…

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