In September, Michelle and I made a whirlwind trip (11 days total, 3 of which were spent in airports or on airplanes) all the way from Africa to the USA to attend my Grandfather's memorial service. He passed away on August 31 this year at the age of 93. It was a long way to go for such a short period of time, but it was totally and completely worth it. In the 13+ years that I have lived overseas, I have missed numerous events in the lives of my family and close friends – weddings, reunions, births, funerals. Because of that, it was so very precious to me to be able to be there this time – to spend a few days with my extended family all in one place and to celebrate the life of the man who was my hero.
Why was he my hero? It all started when I was three years old and he and Grandma came to stay with me while my parents were at the hospital having my little sister. They brought with them a set of "Magic Mary Ann" paper dolls. (The 'magic'? They were magnetic so the clothes would actually stay on!) He sat down with me at my little tiny table-and-chairs and cut out all the clothes, taped the little metal bits on the back that would stick to the magnet, and even traced a blank dress for me to color myself. I still remember it vividly now, over thirty years later.
After he retired, he and Grandma bought a piece of property in the woods up in the Northern California mountains and built a house there. The vast majority of my favorite childhood memories took place at that house. Walks in the woods, game nights, watching Hercule Poirot on TV, camping in their trailer, playing in the snow at Christmas time (oh the travesty the year I was 10 and we didn't get any snow for Christmas!), driving down the mountain to go shopping and out for lunch at King's Table or the Westside Deli or to that place where you could get the twisty chocolate and vanilla soft-serve ice cream cones….little things really. But precious to me all the same, the stuff that memories are made of.
When I left home and went away to college, we kept up a lively pen-and-paper correspondence. This lasted for years – well beyond the advent of email - many of the years that I lived in Papua New Guinea included. It really only ended in the past 5 years or so as his mind really started to slip. When I got married, he made a special trip and flew all the way from Washington to Florida at the age of 83 so that he could be there at my wedding. And he was so very tickled that he got to meet all three of my little ones the last time we were back in the States.
My Grandpa led a pretty ordinary life. He was a simple man who loved his Lord, loved his family, loved to work with his hands. All these little things that I remember about him are really very simple little memories, things that in and of themselves were not that noteworthy or spectacular. And yet, I considered him my hero. I am realizing now it was because he took the time. He sat with me when I was a little girl. He and Grandma spent hours and days and weeks and months as I grew up spending time at their home in the mountains doing simple, ordinary things with me. He took the time to write me letters regularly for years when I was a young woman. He built a relationship with me.
Building a relationship with me didn't require any special talents, or a lot of money, or a lot of fuss and trouble. It just took time…little moments here and there spread out over the years that added up over a lifetime. If there is one thing that I want to remember about him - to learn from how he lived his life - it is this.
Take the time for the little things. They matter more than you may ever know.