My paternal grandfather died in 2010 while I was in pursuit of my first post-baccalaureate degree. He had throat cancer, but ultimately died in his sleep during work travels.
He was a roofer by trade and he was a hard worker. Even during the years he struggled with alcohol addiction, he worked faithfully. Today, experts would suggest that he was a functioning alcoholic – but I am not sure the title fits.
Of course, he worked tirelessly and he maintained his household; but there’s more to functioning than being able to work.
He was born in a completely different time than I was and his family’s composition was one that I can never fully understand.
In my early and middle childhood days I was afraid of my grandfather. He was definitely harmless, but he was loud. He would come into my grandmother’s house loudly making his presence known.
You see my mother was a quiet woman who rarely raised her voice so the most noise in our house was us children playing or occasionally the television or radio. I was unsure of how to what it meant when someone was loud.
In my wee mind people were only loud if there was danger near. So when my grandfather would speak loudly I thought something was wrong and I would cry.
For quite awhile he thought that I was simply crying because he was in the building! My grandmother and mother explained that I was just frightened by his loudness.
He was always crazy about me. I was his first grandchild by his favorite child. Seriously, everyone would agree that my dad was my grandfather’s favorite child.
Fast forward to my teenage years, my grandfather and I grew very close. I was no longer afraid of him and I realized he was only loud when he was announcing his entrance into my grandma’s house.
He and my grandmother were separated but still married. He still financially supported my grandmother; however, for some reason unbeknownst to me they were separated throughout my entire life.
Once I was a teenager I would go to my grandfather’s house and sit with him. I loved those times, some times we would talk but most of the time we would just sit in silence.
My grandfather is no longer around but even to this day I love just sitting in silence.
When I moved for college I talked to my grandfather at least once a week. Neither of us were really good phone conversationalist but with the distance between us we learned how to converse on the phone.
He would tell me about his travels for work and about the men he worked with. I would tell him what I was doing in school and how I thought college was stupid.
He would generally end the conversation by encouraging me to stay in school. He told me my schooling would pay off eventually.
You see he didn’t have much formal education and neither did the majority of his siblings. Education was something some of them aspired to but it seemed out of reach.
My grandfather did get to see me graduate high school and college. He was very proud of me. My pictures were all over his house and he talked about me to any who would listen.
He wasn’t a perfect man, no one is. And he had some issues, everyone does. But he taught me a lot about work ethic and character.
I’m glad I was able to let him know that I love him while he was still living. I’m ultra glad that I got to know him as a person and not just as my loud grandfather who doesn’t live with my grandma but seems to pay all the bills!
I think he would be proud of me today. As I prepare to use my education to educate others. He would likely remind me of how he would tell me that schooling is good for me and it will pay off.