Friday, March 11, 2011

Things My Grandfathers Said

My two grandfathers were very different men, and I loved them both dearly. As a boy I treasured time with them, looked up to them, paid attention to what they said – which was often surprising. Here are a few things I heard them say that made a deep impression on me. I won’t distinguish which grandfather said what, because that’s not important to a general audience. But I write in hopes my grandfathers will inspire you, and also to encourage men to be good teaching grandfathers for future generations.

One time I was watching my grandfather pruning rose bushes. I was startled at how much he cut them back! “If you ask the rose bushes, they don’t like to be pruned,” he replied.

“Don’t argue with idiots. They like it too much.” I probably should have followed this advice more frequently in my life.

I could tie my shoelaces as a youngster, but my shoes were often loose enough to come off my feet. My strategy was to keep tying more knots in the laces until I didn’t have any shoelace left to work with. My grandfather said to me, “Glenn, if the first knot isn’t tight, it doesn’t matter how many more knots you tie on top.” I’ve found a lot of ways to apply that insight over the years!

A simple framework for determining what’s wrong: “Don’t do things that make the devil happy.”

Whenever I expressed that I was a little tired of working on a chore, I heard my grandfather’s classic response was classic: “The work isn’t done yet.” Learning about the rhythm of work is more caught than taught.

When I rationalized that he cut wood better because he had a sharper axe: "It's the workman, not the tool."  Even at age 15 I knew he was right. 

Every driver thinks they’re above average.” One of my earliest insights into the fact that self-perception is unreliable.

“You have a belly button, Glenn, so you’re entitled to your opinion. That’s about all you’re entitled to.” Needless to say, my grandfather was not keen on entitlement programs and people who thought they deserved this or that.

Commentary on a local figure who was caught in adultery: “He threw a lot away for a few minutes of fun with a zip at the end. A man does well to keep his pants on.”

One time I asked my grandfather why he shaved in the morning and the evening before bed. He just looked at me, smiled, and continued shaving. (It was several years before I figured this one out!)

Sometimes these men showed ignorance or stereotyping. Here’s an example: “Those foreigners have a different word for everything. If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me!” I suspect my grandfather was a little surprised in heaven to find that blue-eyed English-speaking Caucasians were the minority population in heaven. He was convinced that Jesus spoke King James English, and that the apostles switched to the red ink quill when recording his words.

What did you learn from your grandfathers?

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