Today is National Grandparents Day, which I didn’t know until this morning, but it is so timely since I was thinking about my own grandfather the other day. I was sharing stories with my sons about what a nice old man he was to me and his other grandchildren yet to the grown ups, he was a crotchety and irritable figure. If you ask my mother and my aunts about it, they’ll mostly laugh at it as they accept it as him being who he was but, to this day, I can’t picture that side of him. What I can picture, as my mother has also described, is the hardworking, honest, responsible man who, like other blacks of his day, experienced racism and indignity yet never used it as an excuse to abandon his responsibilities and set a good example for every male in his life. I remember when my family moved in with him when I was two years old, three years after my grandmother passed away, and he kept the house in immaculate shape, the yard tidy and was always a pleasure to be around. I always go the sense that being an older man who lived on his own, he not only learned to live independently but got a boost from the love he had for his grandchildren. I remember whenever he would come to visit he would bring a bag of candy for me and my sister, a bag of peaches for my parents and staying only five minutes but always making sure me and my sister felt the love.
What did I learn from Granddaddy? I learned to live my life as a good example to my sons and that when the day comes that I have grandchildren that I learn from whatever mistakes I may make with my own so that I can be the kind of grandfather to them that mine was to me. To have my grandchildren share the kind of memories with their children that I have of mine would be a true honor but I have to earn that honor.
Another man who is truly earning that honor is my other father. Like the classic rags to riches story he grew up poor in rural South Carolina, graduated from college, served some time in the Air Force, got a good job, earned his masters degree and ran a successful accounting firm for almost 40 years. He didn’t believe in religion and my mother was an agnostic so my sister and I didn’t grow up in the church but we were brought up with solid values such as telling the truth, respecting other people and their property and always putting out best face forward. Daddy wasn’t always the perfect or ideal father (Who is?) as he made his share of mistakes but rather than hold those mistakes against him, I’ve tried to do better. One thing I remember almost vividly is when I got in a fight with a kid across the street, walked away because I didn’t want to continue fighting, and he kept sending me back to fight him since I needed to toughen up and stand up for myself. Several years later, after the birth of my older son, I remember being stressed out by him and Daddy calling to talk to me. He told me about that incident and how he regretted it and I let him know that I didn’t hold that against him and how I planned to raise my son. I have taught him to stand up for himself in situation when he has to but I wouldn’t force him to fight anyone. In the times we live in now it is hard because it’s not quite as easy to tell your child to hit someone back when people are shooting and killing each other over senseless things. Thankfully both my sons know Tae Kwon Do so defending themselves in unarmed confrontation isn’t as much of a worry. When I see my boys interact with their “Gramps”, I see the growth and learning from past mistakes that I felt when he called me that evening. When Daddy was running his business he didn’t often find time to spend with me and my sister since he was busy but he makes and effort to spend time with his grandsons every chance he gets. He also gives plenty of compliments and encouraging words that I didn’t always receive.
I feel that the lessons I learned from my father are valuable in how I raise his grandchildren. Unlike Daddy I accept Christ as my lord and savior and my sons are being raised to be Christian men but like my father, their mother and I try to instill basic values of honesty, respect for others and the value of hard work in them. Like my father I try to be a good provider and an example of a hard working may who has his family’s back but I try to give positive reinforcement on a more regular basis. I already see the same relationship with my sons and both their grandfathers, the other nicknamed “Pops” that I had with mine and it makes my heart jump.
My sons are rare in that they have all four grandparents surviving and living in close proximity and their interactions with all four, who have four different personalities and ways of doing things, are amazing. I have learned so much about the kind of father I want to be and not to be, the kind of grandfather I want to be and not to be, from both but especially my own father and grandfather and I am blessed for that. My father’s own personal growth and evolution is an influence on me and so are the memories of my grandfather. I am in no hurry to be anyone’s grandfather right now but when that moment does come, this granddaddy will be totally up for the challenge.