It’s time to deviate from the rants and the relationship quandaries. It’s time to talk about something that will have my eyes moist by the time I’m done writing. It’s time to pay homage to one of my most admired men.
Most people, when asked to name the people they most admire, will name off some famous world leader or maybe even celebrity. The same response can be given when asked who they would most like to be like. For me, there are two men that I want to be like. Those men are the same men I am named after, my father and my grandfather.
Though the suffix on my driver’s license labels me the third, I am like the eighth man in my family to bear this name. Imagine the pressure on naming a son, should I be fortunate enough to have one someday. I can only pray that the baby’s mother will be understanding.
Growing up, I have more memories of time spent with my father and his father than I do of time spent with friends. I can remember very clearly standing on a dirt road between two soybean fields in the middle of the country, while the two of them talked with another farmer and bored me to tears. Being so bored, I plopped my little butt on the ground… right in a massive mound of fire ants. The memory of this day isn’t because of the exciting talk of soybeans, but because of the speed and strength with which these two men I most admire grabbed me up, stripped me down, and hurried me back to the house so that Grandma could paint me with that nasty pink lotion.
I remember hunting for the first time beside them, walking alongside when I was too young to hold a shotgun of my own. I remember fishing down a country river with them, terrified of the alleged alligator that had recently been spotted but knowing that they would protect me from it. I remember “helping” them with lumber in the workshop, with crops in the field, with anything they’d let me tag along with.
Most of all, I remember that they were the strongest two men I’d ever known in my entire life, both physically and emotionally. There was never any doubt that I wanted to be just like them.
Last weekend, my grandfather moved from his home, where he had lived all his life, into an “assisted living facility.” I’ve been told it’s not “a home,” but more like an apartment complex full of old people with medical staff on-hand. Whatever it is, it’s all the same in my eyes. It’s the beginning of the end for him.
It’s not like I thought he would live forever, though. Granddaddy turned 91 last October. That’s a hell of a run for any man, especially when the run isn’t over just yet. It was just more of a wake-up call. I’ve always pictured his death to be from a heatstroke while working in the yard, heart failure while checking the mail, or maybe just passing peacefully in the same bed that my grandmother died in ten years ago. A home rules all of these possibilities out. Worse yet, it means that his strength has failed him. Now he must rely on others for support, rather than be the monument of independence that I’ve always perceived him to be.
I’m told it was his choice, though, so I will respect it. He isn’t gone yet, and already I have a list of regrets. The biggest one, though, is that I haven’t given him a great-grandson with his name. How odd is that?