My grandfather, Leonard, is a lot to live up to. Doing remodeling or painting generally leads me to, at some point, slip on these well-loved overalls that once belonged to the MAN himself. Looking back now on my relationship with him over the years, I find myself wondering if he would have liked me as an adult. People say I'm a lot like him, but people say a lot of things. I often wonder what he would say or what he would think about who I am and what I'm doing with my life, but he's been gone since 2000, and there's really no way to know. Regardless, slipping on these overalls--several sizes too large for me--and adding to the years of shop work splattering the fronts, working on projects always helps me remember how much he affected my life during the 14 years I knew him--how much he continues to affect my life through the lessons he taught me.
"I'm lazy; I do things right the first time so I don't have to go back and do it again."
Oh Grandpa... This was generally what he would say any time I was told to do a chore as a child. Obviously, I was resistant, and, at the time, this saying just made me mad. I knew it wasn't right to be lazy; I also knew I did NOT want to do whatever it was my mother or grandmother had told me to do, so I was generally left confused. However, this trait, this affinity for proficiency and excellence, now seems to be one of my most prominent characteristics. I'm not saying I always perform or create to excellent standards, but I am passionate about bringing out the best in myself and others, and I always want to do this efficiently. Sometimes I jokingly tell my husband that I just want to control other peoples' lives, but he not-so-gently corrects me that's not the case (self-deprecating humor: something I learned from several women in my life, and something I will address later). My husband, God bless him, points out where I recognize where people could make themselves better, and that I'm generally amped to help others reach their potential. I guess that's the teacher in me--Leonard.
While Leonard's saying doesn't always describe my intentions towards doing the dishes, weeding my flower bed, or general housework, as an adult I can see how this sentiment is also a description of how I operate with people. Around our house, we say "we never half-ass anything," and we work hard in our relationships and at our jobs; that's something Grandpa would be proud of.
"I'm just lookin' at the dollies."
As a child, I thought Grandpa sitting on the park bench "looking at the dollies" was hilarious. Now that I'm older, and despite the face I'm oh-so-educated and understand the objectification of women should never be funny, I still find it endearing. We often called my Grandma, his wife, a saint because she was able to tolerate is ever-slightly-crude humor, and his love of women. Now, when I say "love of women," I do not mean he had a weakness when it came to "wandering". He loved my Grandma so much--and with such openness--I cannot believe he would have ever wanted to be with anyone else. However, he loved to laugh, flirt, and tease with women--and men, too, actually. He would intelligently craft little jokes here and there, generally making others laugh or blush, and my grandmother would smile--as always--and cluck "Oh, Leonard."
Analyzing this memory leaves me with a muddled idea of how his habit of "watching the dollies" really affects who I am, but it's a strong memory. Even while I can see this might have been seen as one of his flaws, I believe it to be somewhat of a ruse, a big nothing said for a reaction. What I am more and more amazed with now is the confidence and grace with which my grandmother laughed with him. They were both so confident in one another, and so trusting; my grandmother always smiled and giggled, always found him funny, and he loved to make her laugh. I hope I can "get" my husband as much as she always seemed to "get" Leonard.
"Dazzle them with your speed."
These are the last words my grandfather spoke to me before he died. Not on his death bed or anything; no, he had come to watch me play basketball, and for some reason he had to leave before the end of the game. As he walked out of the gym, he rounded the baseline where we were lining up to shoot a foul shot. As he passed me, positioned at the bottom of the key, he whispered, "dazzle them with your speed." Now, in all honesty, I thought he was making fun of me, but that's what can be gleaned from a 14-year-old's understanding in her lack of self confidence. When I asked my dad, my coach, about what he might of meant, my dad told me I was fast--not fast like I could beat someone down the court, but I was fast in my first three steps. Later, as I began to strengthen my game, I realized what he'd been talking about, and I realized that his last words to me had been those of a coach, an educator... grandpa.