A Tale of Two Grandfathers

Once upon a time there was Grandpa Les and Grandpa Leo. Both of these men gave me so much good stuff. So many memories. So much of who I am, I can tell you that’s because of one or both of them.

Grandpa Les was a handful. I always felt proud of his zeal for life and inability to accept the status quo. If a path wasn’t working out, he made a new one. The saying, “if there is a will or a way”? Grandpa Smith had will and then some. He was a pilot, police officer, truck driver, and business owner.

Towards the end of his life, he expressed a sense of failure in a life with all these different careers and businesses. I was shocked. A life pursuing happiness and success did not seem like a failure to me. Not that happiness and success always came, but the pursuit. The pursuit was his journey and he made it an adventurous one, he never gave up trying.

Grandpa Leo was an introvert. Quiet, almost to the point of being withdrawn.   Our family pieces together his life from the stories each of us has because they aren’t many and no one of us got them all. Being “fostered out” when his mother died, joining the Civilian Conservation Corps, World War II…He worked for the US Post Office and after a long career with them, retired to enjoy his dogs, PBS, and tinkering in the garage.

At one point in his life, he expressed a sense of failure for taking the safe route. He’d wanted to work for the Forestry Department. He wondered how it would have all turned out if he had tried. He told me once to never say no to something I might later wonder about. If I was going to “wonder, what if”, then I needed to try it.

As I faced my most recent fork in life’s road, I had to choose between the status quo and trying something very different. Both Grandfathers came to mind over and over. Staying put felt risky, I didn’t see a way to get the life I wanted. Moving felt risky, that certainly held no promise of the life I wanted.

It felt like both Grandfathers would approve the untried path. Grandpa Les would know I took a full accounting, realizing this whole thing could be a bust. I know I may not achieve everything I intend, but I won’t give up trying. Grandpa Leo would know I will never wonder “what if”.

The answer to how it all turns out could very well be awful, but I’ll have some new stories and I will know I  tried.