Tribute to a Father

My grandfather passed away yesterday after a shockingly short illness.  I’m sad beyond words, but I can’t help but smile when I think of the man I view as my father.  I’m not a religious person by any means, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s been hanging around with me all day today.  Work is tough when you just want to sit at home and cry, but I thought the following sums up my feelings about my grandpa perfectly.  I love you grandpa, you are the best father a girl could ask for.  I don’t know what I did to get so lucky.

Tribute to a Father

My earliest memories of my grandfather are all underwater.  I was one of those lucky kids that got to grow up in a house with a pool in the backyard.  I was also that lucky kid that got my grandfather as a father.  Combine those two things: a pool, and my grandfather, and I was the luckiest kid on the planet.  Every year, when grandpa would venture up to the pool to get it ready for the upcoming summer, I would tag along.  No matter what the weather, as soon as the cover was off that pool, I dove right in.  There were years when the water temperature hovered around 50 degrees, but that didn’t stop me; it didn’t stop grandpa either. No sooner had I surfaced, to scream at him how cold the water was, than he had jumped right in with me.  He would jump off the edge of the pool and dive cleanly into the deep end and swim the length of the pool under water, just like he taught me.  My mother and grandmother thought we were both crazy, but those first swims in the pool each summer were something I looked forward to all winter.  It was just me and him.

Years later, when I joined the swim team in high school, I could always count on grandpa being one of the only spectators at the meet to sit through my entire distance race.  He would sit uncomfortably on the metal bleachers in the pool, and watch me swim back and forth, back and forth.  I also knew that, without fail, when the last two laps came, I would look up and see him yelling at me “swim lizzie, swim!, one of the only parents to still be paying attention.  I was a solid 4th place finisher, but no matter the place, he would congratulate me after each race like I had just won a championship.

During one of our last conversations I told him that I was planning to run a half marathon in September.  Most of my friends had looked at me in disgust when I told them the 13.1 mile race was “for fun”, but he looked at me, didn’t miss a beat, and said “What? Only a half?”  Once he finally stopped laughing at his own joke, he got very serious and said to me “I think that’s a great goal.  You’ll do great. I wish I could see it.” I know if he was able, he would be standing at the last two miles screaming at me “run lizzie, run.” He may not be there to see me finish, but I know that when I cross that finish line the only thing I’ll be able to think about is him looking at me and saying with a huge smile on his face “Now, what about the other half?”

My grandfather taught me more than I can possibly verbalize, but I think the enduring message is that though you will “fail” more times than you succeed, its only truly a failure if you stop trying and there is always someone there to encourage you to keep trying.  For me, that person was grandpa.  From quizzing me on algebra until I finally got it, teaching me to dive and swim in our backyard pool, to cheering me on in all those long races, I could always count on him to push me to work harder.  And as usual, he was right: What about that other half?  I think I’m going to have to do it, just for him.

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