Alright, so I didn't come through on another post as soon as I had planned. You know how people get writer's block? I have the opposite. I have so many ideas that it's been downright paralyzing. The only way to fix that is to get busy, so here goes!
This is the fourth one of these family profiles I've done -- my mom, dad and my brother were the previous unsuspecting targets of my writings.
I am 31 years old and still have all four of my grandparents alive and well. I am well aware of how rare and wonderful that is! I went to college in their hometown, so those four years were an amazing time of connection and love with my grandparents. Here's a short insight into my perceptions and memories of each of them (names in parenthesis are their official nicknames from the great-grandchildren):
Paternal grandfather (Great)
Great's direct legacy to me includes things like his sense of humor, his body shape, his deafening sneeze and his penchant for picking up odd hobbies. I inherited them all, gladly. He served in the Navy but I've never heard him talk about it much. He sold insurance for many years, and I've heard hints that he had some outstanding career achievements, but I haven't heard him talk about those either.
He became a Christian sometime around the age I'm at now (31) and has gone on to become a true leader/servant in his church. He and my grandmother have helped build and lead a food distribution center for needy families in Little Rock. When most retired men his age would sit back and rest, he drives a truck full of food to people who are hungry. The very essence of Jesus.
He gave me my first ice cream when I was a little boy. I think he has given all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren their first ice cream. My childhood memories of him include breakfasts at McDonalds, sitting in his lap and driving his truck, and sitting in the wheelbarrow as he pushed us all around his backyard. He is a great man, that Great.
Paternal grandmother (Nonny)
Nonny is one of those ladies who is a true natural with children. She stayed home with her own children until they were older, then she worked for the local University for many years in the Admissions department. She loved spending time with her grandchildren (ahem... I was the first). She really loves seeing her great-granchildren, and it's a priority for me and Jamie to make that happen as much as possible.
She is a natural teacher and counselor, with excellent listening skills. She turned their home into a Grand Central Station of unconditional love, with tons of visitors constantly coming by to chat. She has taught dozens, if not hundreds, of bible classes for ladies and couples.
Nonny was the biggest champion to begin and continue the family tradition of a week-long summer vacation. It started when I was a baby and last year we had 17 people there! Many of my childhood memories revolve around those vacations.
Maternal grandfather (Grandaddy)
Grandaddy gave me a love for music, as he was a band director and professor of music for 40 years. I continue to meet people who have been influenced by his teaching and leadership.
He also has a great sense of humor but it's not always on display. This makes it all the more hilarious when he lets it out. Example:
Grammy: "I've been so clumsy lately -- I broke two plates yesterday!"
Grandaddy: "Yep. She missed both times."
He served as an elder in the church for a long time and retired from that role a few years ago. He is one of those men who quietly goes around doing many good things none of us will ever hear about. The world needs more like him.
Maternal grandmother (Grammy)
I don't have a ton of very powerful childhood memories of Grammy -- we loved spending time at her house, but I remember her as sort of reserved and quiet in big family settings.
As an adult, though, I discovered we were kindred spirits. Name an issue and we likely agreed on it. I saw her personality unfurl before me and she became one of my very best friends, both during my college years and beyond.
She is the only family member who ever bought gifts for our cats at Christmas. The incredible thing is that I'm almost sure that she doesn't like cats at all. But she loved me and Jamie, so the cats got a piece of love too, whether they understood it or not.
To this day when she talks, I listen. And every time we part, these two intellectual and reserved souls shed rare tears.
I'm a lucky dude.