Saturday, February 21, 2015

A to Z: G (An Honorable Mention for Grandparents)

One of life's many blessings  are grandparents. 

Since I was little I've been generating a mental list of things I'd like to know when I get to heaven. Although this list justifies its own post, I will give you an example or two. 

The first has been on my list for a very long time. I used to shoot basketball a lot. I played for school up until the tenth grade, but most of my shooting and playing were outside on the driveway. Sun or snow (not rain), you could find me outside shootin' hoops. Before going inside for dinner or bed, I always made sure to stand under the basket and hit ten shots in a row off the backboard. Not to practice lay-ups or any other skills for that matter, but rather for the sole purpose of raising my lifetime shooting percentage...which I would one day find out in heaven when God handed me my stat sheet.

One other thing on my list still has fresh ink. I just now thought about it as I sat down to write a little tribute to my grandparents. I would like to know just how much my grandparents affected my life. I know I am a far better person for having them in my life while growing up - in that time of self and world discovery. Not to diminish the role they have played in my adult life, but having them as a staple in my young life guided me down the right paths of integrity and character as well as strengthening my spiritual faith. Wouldn't it be interesting to know which decisions you may have made (or had not made) in your life if it were not for the significant people that were and are integral characters of our lives?

I definitely know there have been times I was faced with a situation where I've had to come to a screeching halt. And because of that, things were altered. This is something else I would like to see as I watch highlights of my life in heaven. I was always curious of how things could have diverged if I had made different choices. Movies dealing with that issue always fascinated me such as Back to the Future and even The Butterfly Effect. I am certain of one thing. If not for my strong belief in Christ and the positive role models in my life, such as my grandparents, my life would have been very different. Someone was definitely watching out for me. I'm not one to break bad habits easily so I'm thankful for that strong convicting voice that I heard over and over...and over again while facing uncertainties.

I will be the first to admit that I am as far away from perfect as anybody else. I was imperfect while growing up - otherwise my principal in 4th grade wouldn't have asked me to ram my head into a cement pole - and am still imperfect today. Now my cement poles are more figurative. Thankfully. 

Don't worry, the cement pole event will show up in it's own post.

On to the tribute...

My grandparents were always there. Birthdays, graduations and everything in between. They lived nearby so I always saw them at church too. Grandpa would come to most if not all sporting events. He talked about my corner-kick goal against Country Day for years. 

My emotions on the soccer field used to get the best of me. I always heard the voices from the crowd. One of course was my dad doing his usual cheering. And the other was my grandpa telling me to basically to cool my jets...and fast. One time the ref had his hand on the yellow card...with my name was on it. Hearing my grandpa tell me to calm down, the ref changed his mind. But it's not just the voice of my grandpa in the soccer crowd that had an effect on me. It was his voice - and my grandma's voice - that helped guide me through life's hills and valleys. And more importantly, their voice, their faith, their love and their support, helped me to discover my true identity whether on a hill or in a valley. If we can't learn from where we are right here, right now then we cease to learn. We cease to live.

For one of their anniversaries years ago I wrote them a poem called, Jesus Thru Your Eyes. It was a tribute to how I have always felt about them. My entire life I saw them live their lives mirroring Christ. No decisions were selfish. There was no greed, jealousy or anger. They were the embodiment of faith, hope, love and perhaps above all, grace while being the epitome of wisdom, loyalty and devotion.

Growing up, I couldn't imagine life without them. I may be completely wrong here, but I believe a house cannot stand without a steel beam running from one side to the other. Even if I'm wrong, I'm not wrong in saying that my grandparents were that steel beam. I always thought they would be around. I literally could not fathom life without them. This made losing Grandma even more difficult. Part of that steel beam collapsed and was no longer there. How can such a pillar of strength and grace be gone...and without much warning? My grandpa is still with us and it makes it hard not living nearby anymore. Spending time with him is something I will always treasure. Despite any health issues that he deals with and his age, he's still the strongest man I know. When I lost my dad in 2005, Grandpa was more then a grandfather. He became the only father-figure I had. I don't have a father-in-law and grandparents from my wife's side, whom I love very much, are far away. They don't have the same personal and historical connection that I have with my grandpa. I pray he's around for awhile longer. I cherish that father figure role he plays in my life.

I have fond memories of my grandparents. My older brother, Jason, and I used to sleep over night at their house. We would make popcorn over the fireplace and sip orange soda floats . Bedtime meant story time. Grandpa would always tell the story of the wee little woman that lived in the wee little house. Mornings would bring disorientation accompanied by the songs of doves. We would eat oatmeal with raisins before going to church. I distinctly remember Grandpa reading the Cat in the Hat to me - one of my very fist read-alouds. The launch for my appreciation of literacy. There was nothing like spending time at Grandma and Grandpa's house. 

Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas were all memorable times. We would always go to my grandparent's house and spend much of the day there. Grandma would cook...oh, how I miss her cooking. The kids would have Easter Egg hunts up on the hill - a tradition that's still going. Santa would come and bring gifts - another tradition that more or less is continuing. But it was what was at the center of all that, my grandparents, that made it truly memorable and life-altering. It was in those moments you begin to learn and see what family is really about.

Grandpa had a pop-up camper that he stored over at Uncle Warren's. They would use it to take us camping down in the meadow on the family farm. Grandma would cook dinner over the fire and after dark we would do sparklers. As we twirled them around in zigs and zags, the bullfrogs by the creek added their music to the scene as the lightening bugs decorated the dark. During the day we would swim in the creek and take long boat rides. Stopping at Elmer's for some ice cream was a delectable treat.

We would also take many day trips with them. We would often visit Grandma's cousin, Joyce and her husband Glenn. Their house was like the Reptile Room in the Unfortunate Events series. There was a big snake in a glass case, bear rugs, porcupine skins and a huge, very scary, buffalo head on the wall. Worse yet, there were real buffalo outside in the field. I was always terrified, but fascinated, by them. It was a fun adventure.

We also took camping trips with them that would involve some road trips. Road trips meant hidden candy in the car...and dare I say, seat belt breaks. Not too many though. Road trips also meant swallowing was the main means of hydrating one self. I remember Monticello and the Luray caverns. They are not the clearest of memories, but knowing we were there meant we were exploring the world. Something that I appreciate to this day because we were being educated. We'd also go to Codorus State Park to swim. I remember being blown away by how monstrous the pool was. Then there was the time I came face-to-face with a deer while at a campground somewhere. Nothing surprises you more than when you turn around and you are literally inches away from a deer's face. Keep in mind I was young. And I hid my shock pretty well. I believe my exact words were, "Hello, there!" My grandpa still laughs at that memory.

Now that I'm grown with kids of my own, I can't express enough how grateful and blessed I am to have children that have a great-grandpa that absolutely loves spending time with them. Skype is one incredible piece of technology! My girls tend to get a little silly while Skyping, but Grandpa lights up when seeing their beautiful faces and hearing their voices. When visiting him at his home, the girls imagination and adventurous spirit run wild while rummaging through his collectibles upstairs. He enjoys every minute of it.

I may not be able to pinpoint every aspect in which I am a better person because of my grandparents, but I do know a stronger character and a more solidified faith in Christ (as well as the power of family) are among them. Thank you, Lord, for blessings you have given me.

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