My younger brother and I spent a lot of time with them when we were younger. In a way it was great because in the midst of being surrounded by chaos, they offered us a calm environment where we were loved, nurtured and could just be kids.
In a way, though, it was sad because they were more like our parents, so we didn't get that, 'fun time at Grandma and Grandpa's house' that most other kids got to enjoy. But it's all good.
I learned a tremendous amount from each of them. My Grandma taught us manners, 'proper behavior' and respect for ourselves and others. What I loved was that although she taught me the importance of 'being a lady', she also instilled in me the inner strength and courage never to let others stop me from being what I want to be just because I was a girl.
Grandpa was the one who kicked us in the butt, in a gentle way, when we weren't pulling our weight. Yes, we were allowed to be kids, but we still had to pull our weight and work hard. There was no excuse for laziness.
The following story was featured in Chicken Soup For the Soul. It focuses on the virtues my grandfather instilled in me, and that I still carry with me to this day. I think he'd be proud of where I am today and that I am trying to inspire in my children what he had always inspired in me:
~ To be myself.
~ To be the best me I could be.
~ To never give up on a dream, even when others tell me to.
~ To be brave enough to take every challenge thrown my way.
~ To never hear, or use, the words, "I can't".
~ To take every down moment, turn it into an up one and learn from the experience.
~ To surround myself with those who I aspire to be.
This is for you, Grandpa.
Pearls of Wisdom
Most people describe my grandfather as ‘the last of a dying breed’, whenever his name floats into conversation. I guess he was a gentleman. He opened doors, pulled out chairs, had a firm handshake and, no matter the weather, always wore a gentleman’s hat. He reminded me of Jimmy Stewart. Most of all, he loved his family with every fiber of his being.
He came from very humble beginnings and worked like a mule, as he’d said, for everything he had. Yes, when I was growing up, he had a nice house, which he’d built, in one of the more prominent areas in Winnipeg. Yes, he’d built a cabin at West Hawk Lake where our family was fortunate enough to have spent every summer. Yes, he was able to retire from the wool company he’d built from the ground up to enjoy the rest of his life gardening, golfing or resting. None of us had ever wanted for anything. But that didn’t mean he was easy on us, or that we were spoiled.
“Things don’t make a person, a person,” he said to me often. “You have to go out there and work hard. Nobody ever got anything by waiting for someone else to take care of them.”
My being a girl didn’t matter to Grandpa either. In fact, I think in some ways, he was harder on me than he was on my brother. But I think that was only because he saw potential in me I didn’t see.
I dropped out of high school to help my family at home, losing myself in my mom’s personal problems. Grandpa never lectured me. He just helped me get a job at the local drugstore. I really wasn’t interested in working at that age, but I sure wasn’t going to disappoint my grandfather either. Plus, I liked making my own money that wasn’t totally derived from babysitting.
I worked in retail for many years because I didn’t finish high school, but he never seemed disappointed in me. In fact, he was my loudest cheerleader and my strongest supporter. And he always had a way of making me feel better, even on days I’d beat myself up for not being the success I thought he wanted me to be.
“Chynna,” he said, holding my cheeks between his long, calloused hands. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a garbage man, as long as you’re the best damn garbage man there is. Remember that. You’re meant to be something special. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than that.”
Grandpa died in 1995 from a stroke, something I still haven’t gotten over. One minute he was there, the next I had an empty space in my soul nobody else could fill. But he’s still in my heart. Because of his support, his silent strength, his rib-crushing hugs and his pearls of wisdom, I got a degree in Psychology as well as completing my BPA in Criminology, I have a beautiful family of my own and have my own freelance writing/editing business I call, “Lily Wolf Words” after my grandparents (“Lily” for Lillian and “Wolf” for Wilf). And if he was here to read my books, I’m sure he’d be my main PR guy.
His pearls of wisdom are with me always and I will pass these heirlooms down through my children as his legacy. I’m not a garbage man, but I’m the best damn writer I can be. And with his name fronting my company, I’ll never have an excuse to give up.