Monday, August 24, 2009

The Greatest Man I Know

I was so lucky to spend some time this past weekend with the greatest man I know. I don't spend near enough time with him, but every time I do see him, I come away awed and inspired and questioning. For a man who just turned 84 years old, he is so incredibly perky and spry and funny and passionate and sparkly.

Like anyone who has reached that age, he has been through his share of grief and loss. He is a member of that Greatest Generation who fought to save the world. He was a waist gunner and radio operator on a B-24 bomber, and like so many others, he was shot down over Germany.He likes to say that he got spend the last eleven months of the war recovering from his wounds as a guest of Herr Hitler. He still doesn't talk about that very much.

He lost his first wife to cancer when he still had two children at home and had to work full-time to pay for her medical care. More than thirty years later, he lost his second wife to alzheimers. As she started to show signs of the disease, he fought his family, her family, and the doctors to keep her home with him. He once again became a prisoner, this time voluntarily. He gave up his freedom to spend every moment caring for her for more than three years until she finally found her peace in her own bed with him by her side.

After everything he's been through, he is still one of the spunkiest people I know. He just threw himself a birthday party for all his friends and family. He travels and plays golf and is very politically active. He loves to laugh and tell jokes and go shopping. He embraces life and is genuinely happy despite everything he's been through.

What is it about him that has enabled him to still find joy in life despite all he's been through? And why do other people who seem to get lost in bitterness? Blisschick discussed this recently here, and I often find myself asking some of the same questions. Why do some people choose bliss while others choose misery? Do the misery lovers even realize that they've made a choice? Do they know that they even have a choice?

I know I don't always choose wisely. However, even when I am my grumpiest, crankiest, most unfit-for-human-companionship self, I do realize that I have a choice. All I have to do is look at my grandpa, the greatest man I know, and realize that I can choose happiness. Who reminds you to be happy?

1 comment:

  1. How lucky for you that you had a grandfather you could look up to and respect. My maternal grandfather died when Mom was young so I never knew him and while my paternal grandfather lived to a ripe old age he was certainly no one you would look up to. I avoided him as much as possible.

    As to why some people choose to be miserable...they are getting something from it...maybe it's just the satisfaction that they are making someone else miserable.