My grandfather, as most grandfathers do, spoiled his grandchildren. But my grandfather did not just give toys or games or candy; my grandfather gave me gifts that lasted longer than an afternoon, longer than small bits of plastic. My grandfather gave me gifts that were not destined for the hall closet, to be pushed aside, lost, or gather dust. My grandfather gave me dreams.

When I was three years old, my grandfather gave me the hugest book I'd ever seen: The World's Best Fairy Tales, a Readers Digest anthology. There are over eight hundred pages of stories I've read thousands of times; this book has gone everywhere with me. Its binding is cracked, the pages are stained, and the cover is no longer in pristine condition, but it's evident that this book has been well-read and much-handled; this book is LOVED.

When I was nine years old, my grandfather gave me another huge book: Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition. It's not in the best condition either, because I've USED it. I've consulted my dictionary time after time, and it's never let me down. Other editions have been issued, but I'm loyal to this one, because my grandfather gave it to me.

My grandfather completed the newspaper crossword puzzle every day ... in pen. He had the most amazing vocabulary, and he used it; he didn't just gather words like they were precious collectibles; he sprinkled them into his conversation, naturally, not to show off, but because he appreciated language.

My grandfather told me that I could be whatever and whoever I wanted to be. When I told him at age six, that I wanted to be a librarian, he thought that was the BEST THING EVER. When I told him, at age twelve, that I wanted to be a veterinarian, he thought that was the BEST THING EVER. When I told him, at age thirteen, that I might "minor in cosmetology, just in case," he didn't laugh; he thought that was the BEST THING EVER. And when I told him, at age eighteen, that I was going to be a teacher, he thought that was the BEST THING EVER.

My grandfather wanted to know things. He wanted to know EVERYTHING. He was always reading something, or watching something, or studying or researching something, because he liked to be an expert, and because HE DIDN'T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING.

My grandfather was not afraid. In his seventies, he traveled to Israel, BY HIMSELF. He wanted to see, in person, the things he'd read about in the Bible. When he got back, he wrote about his trip, printed it up, and gave everybody in the family a personal copy of his travelogue.

My grandfather always thought we should know more about our family. He didn't know much about our heritage, so he did an incredible amount of research to dig up our ancestry. Then he wrote it all down, printed it out, bound it, and gave everybody in the family a personal copy of our amazing family history.

My grandfather loved my grandmother. He showed his love for her when he pushed her wheelchair, made her lunch, refilled her oxygen tank. He never complained, just touched her cheek and called her Pooh and smiled. He was by her bedside when she died. He cried when I handed him her earrings.

My grandfather died today. He was eighty-nine years old. He hasn't been the man I knew for a while now; Alzheimers and poor health had turned him into a stranger.

But when I remember him--and I will remember him--I'm going to think about the gifts my grandfather gave me.

My grandfather gave me words.
My grandfather gave me curiosity.
My grandfather gave me confidence.

And for these, his greatest gifts, I will be eternally grateful.


Anonymous said...

Mei Flower, this is beautiful. Your grandfather was clearly a special person, and you were so blessed by his love. I know how hard it is to lose a grandparent, particularly after watching them fade through Alzheimer's or dementia... it only makes sense sometimes to dwell on the good things, and it looks like your grandfather left a lot of good memories and a wealth of important gifts that live on through you--and through other members of your family, I'm sure. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers today.

Marsha Brofka-Berends said...

That's a beautiful remembrance of your grandfather. He sounds like an amazing person.

Mrs. Temple said...

What an amazing tribute. Thank you for sharing.

Lady S said...

I am so sorry.

At the same time, I am so jealous.

You were truly blessed to have him.

Mei said...

Thanks, everyone.
We--my family and I--appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
He meant a lot to all of us.

Dree said...

I wish I had the chance to know either of my grandfathers as well as you knew yours. He sounds like an amazing man. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!


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