My Grandpa lived an extraordinary life. Known by many for his adventurous entrepreneurial spirit, there is no doubt that his success in business is very noteworthy and from that we can all learn myriad lessons. However, it is not from his public ventures that I've gleaned the most important lessons from Grandpa. Nope. Some of the most poignant life lessons I learned from him came from what might be considered regular everyday interactions, but Grandpa had a certain way about him that made those regular everyday interactions uniquely his.
Of all the memories made and lessons learned, I've managed to boil it down to the four most important ones:
Lesson #1: Love the life you live, or "Put on your life jackets, we're going out on the Sea-Doo!"
If you knew Grandpa, you know that he lived his life to the absolute fullest. Did he ever have a bad day? I'm sure there might have been a few sprinkled here and there, yet if there were I certainly don't remember them. He filled his life with his passions which filled his days with things he loved to do. I'll always remember the time about 12 years ago when a number of us were at the cabin and we were going to take the Sea-Doos out on the reservoir and he wanted join us for a bit. We put on our life jackets and headed down to the water. my friend and I hopped on one of the Sea-Doos and Grandpa and two of my other cousins on the other. We were going to be daredevils out there, but Grandpa just wanted to go out for a few minutes to take in the views and the sunshine. I'll never forget the sight across the reservoir of him driving that Sea-Doo in his Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, and button-down collared shirt under his life jacket, with my cousins holding on to each other behind him in their swimsuits. They didn't have to hold on too tightly because Grandpa actually got "pulled over" by the boating police for going too slow. But what did he care, he was doing what he wanted and was loving every minute of it. Life's too short not to do that. Figure out what you want to be doing and then do that. Love the life your living every day of it.
Lesson #2: You are more resilient than you think you are, or "Glue that tooth back in and get back to the party."
I consider myself a pretty tough girl and I have to attribute my ability to bounce back from hard knocks, or never shying away from a worthy challenge to Grandpa. I've mentioned this before: Grandpa was very leery of people wanting to scam you for all you're worth, and in his mind the worst offenders? Dentists. Orthodontia, periodontics, all of that is just one big racket designed to take his money. A few Christmases back, Grandpa had been suffering from a toothache and ultimately his tooth fell out. What did he do? (you know the answer is NOT call a dentist) He Krazy glued that freaking tooth right back into place and got himself back out to that party. Now, Internets, I'm neither condoning nor recommending Krazy glue as a treatment plan (I happen to believe wholeheartedly in regular check-ups and cleanings, which I'm sure means I'm bank-rolling this whole dental practice racket), but I am saying that some times you just need to take a deep breath, glue your tooth back into place and get yourself back to that party. Whenever you were feeling like you couldn't catch a break, or life was just giving you more than you could handle, you could always count on Grandpa to be there in your corner encouraging you to dust yourself off, suck it up, and throw yourself back into things. There wasn't any room for self-pity, just glue yourself back together (sometimes literally) and go out and try your best. He was a living example of resiliency.
Lesson #3: Seek out opportunities to be great, or "There's money in that there fiddlin' business!"
One summer when I was in high school, I went up to Grandma and Grandpa's to see Garth Brooks play at Frontier Days. Grandpa and Grandma also went to the show and the next morning at breakfast Grandpa was raving about the band, in particular the fiddler.
"There's money in that there fiddling business!" he said to me in his serious, low, rumbly voice.
He may have been trying to plant a seed with me, perhaps that I should consider a future of professional fiddling. Alas, I did not become a great fiddler, I've actually never picked up a fiddle. However, the seed he did plant with me was that this world is full of opportunities to be great and that it was up to me to seek those out for myself. As it turns out, there's money in a lot of businesses as long as you can find out what you love to do and do it to the best of your ability. I will tell you this, every time I hear a fiddle I think about him and think about the life full of future opportunities for me to be great.
Lesson #4: Dream big, work hard, and make it happen, or "Now you go in there tomorrow and make us proud!"
I've carried this lesson with me every day of my life. I can't attribute it all to Grandpa, but I can say that it's definitely a legacy of his that lives on in me. I know I've written before about how I haven't always been crystal clear on a single dream for my whole life, but when I am inspired by a dream, a big challenging goal, I'll work my hardest, and then a little bit harder to make it happen.
Seven years ago, I left a career in higher education to pursue my dream job in the business world. It was an extremely difficult transition and there were a lot of naysayers out there who tried to tell me it couldn't be done. But I stayed persistent and always believed I'd be able to make it happen, even when every door seemed to be shutting in my face. When I finally did find that dream role, I called Grandma and Grandpa the night before the interview. What Grandpa said to me right before we hung up has lived in my heart every day since, "Now you go in there tomorrow and make us proud, Kath-a-leen."
And that's what I try to do. Every day. Because of you, Grandpa, I keep my dreams big, I work as hard as I can, and I'm making it happen--all the while so you and all of my loved ones can be proud.
Grandpa, I will always love you and will forever live these lessons and pass them on to my own children and grandchildren someday. My voice may be less rumbly, but you will certainly be speaking through me to the future generations of our family. And I'll try my hardest to someday get us a fiddler in the family.