Lots of kids come into my library with their grandparent(s). I can always tell which ones are the "no rules" kind. Often, those kids are a little wilder, and the grandparent promises them some sort of treat if they agree to leave at a set time with no fussing. This always get me thinking about my "Papa", my dad's dad: Norman. He was the "no rules" type of grandparent, and we always had so much fun with him! He passed away the September of my freshman year in high school (1997) from ALS. He was born in Missouri, raised on a farm, and dropped out of school after 7th grade to go to work. The family relocated to Detroit, and shortly thereafter, we entered WWII. He told me he was driving in his car when the radio was interrupted to report Pearl Harbor's bombing. He enlisted in the Navy the next day. While stationed in Sydney, he met and married my dad's mother, Patricia. He had some adventures in the Navy (like his ship was bombed and only his and one other cabin were hit. Luckily he was goofing off on deck somewhere and wasn't killed. Sometimes breaking a rule is a good thing, no?) and returned home to drive a semi for Chrysler. From there he started his own trucking business, found great personal and financial success, learned to fly and bought his own plane, traveled back to Australia several times (in a much larger plane), owned a home in the Florida Keys, and spoiled the hell out of my sister and me.
When I think about all he did in his life, I feel such pride. He never finished 8th grade, yet he was able to provide me with a college education. Even if we had milkshakes before dinner, I learned some really important lessons from him. Now that I'm "all grown up", I often wonder what other lessons he'd teach me. I know he'd be proud of me (even if I were a total loser, he'd still be proud, that's just how he was), but I wonder what types of things we'd talk about now. How would he get along with my husband ? I have a feeling they'd be great friends. On our wedding day, I thought about him a few times. I felt him there. Maybe he wondered before he passed what his life's legacy would be. I can tell you without a doubt that his legacy is unconditional love. That's the kind of love he gave. And it's the kind of love I want to give.
Our family experienced some very painful times after he passed away, and had he lived, most of those things would never have happened or would have played out differently. So much would be different, actually, but it is what it is, and it's still pretty great. I just hope he's watching it all from some fluffy cloud in heaven and smiling.