Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#TodayImGrateful for Veterans

#TodayImGrateful for Veterans.

1944 - Papaw James WW2
And it's true. I am truly grateful for the service rendered to our country, for ideals, for what we interpret as "freedom" in toto. In particular, I am grateful to one amazing veteran and his family - my grandfather, James. He had a brother, Obie, that served. My grandmother's brother, John M, served. Their parents served. My paternal grandfather, Burl, servied. My paternal uncle, Creighton, served. But my Papaw James was a special and unique individual to me. He was a giant in my life. Probably one of the only male role models I can look to with pride and admiration.

We called him Papaw James.

He loved his family. He loved my grandmother fiercely and nearly insanely, and he loved his children. When the time came and he had grandchildren, he loved us. He would constantly play with us, talk to us, and yes... reprimand us. He was of an older generation that were stricter, but he was one of the most hilarious people I have ever known.

1944 - Papaw James
WW2 Uniform
I never understood him growing up because his life was based in realism. He and I never came to certain places of "understanding" because, to him, I was a dreamer. The BEST advice I've ever been given came from my grandfather and grandmother. They were conflicting, they didn't make sense at the time, and I never appreciated them or their wisdom until later in life. (Isn't that the great tragedy of growing up?!? We finally understand what they meant and want to talk with them, but it's too late...)

My grandmother told me: "Darlin', knowing yourself is important, but 'being' yourself is overrated. Be whoever you darn well want to be." She meant that, too. I think she was nearly prophetic. Don't accept whatever is handed to you. Don't be what you are told you must be. Look inside, find that spark, find that fire and be who you want to be. Be the best you you dream up! Be more than people can imagine for you!

My grandfather was of a different mindset. He was pragmatic and a worrier. He had been kicked and knocked a few times and he was one that would hope that your dreams came true, but he planned for disaster. The advice I remember from him was gathered at his kitchen table. We sat there talking over my day and all of these amazing things I was dreaming up for a project: "Pet, could you pull those curtains back for me? Do you see out there? What do you see? I'll tell you. That's a real world out there. You hear me, Nut? You need to grow up a little. I understand that you have big hopes and big dreams - but those don't get handed to you. What are you going to do to make it happen?" I hated being told that. I hated the fact that he didn't jump on my dream bandwagon and immediately drop everything to ensure my hopes and wants and wishes were fulfilled. It's also the best gift he ever gave me. It hurt, but it resonated. It stuck. The lesson stuck and over time I can attribute my successes to the fact that I KNOW it will never be handed to me. I will have to work harder, overcome prejudice, fight more, plan more, pray more, put in MORE hours, and do any and every part of every detail I must do to win. He knew that me coming from rural and beginnings and being a spoiled and sensitive boy would be tough. He knew I'd need to work that much more. Best advice ever.

1944 - Papaw James & Bunt Henderson
My family was held together by those two. Mamaw was the oldest and the matriarch of her family. My grandfather, the same. We always had every holiday at their house. Everyone came. Everyone. Some of those traditions are being lost by those of us left. We don't visit the cousins. We don't make the small times as special. But we should. My twin cousin, Michelle, and I keep vowing to do better. Amanda and I are promising, promising, promising to meet more. But we don't. I call Lou Nell and talk some, but I need to go see John M and Howard soon. Do you have veterans in your life? Giants that inspired you? Thank them. We don't know what they know or what they go through.

Do you have coworkers that served or are serving?
Do you have friends that you respect that served?

Remember that most go away as children. They leave as freshly scrubbed 18 year olds and come back older. They come back having seen things we may never see, or never know. I romanticize my grandparents and my family because we all sat around together. Those stories were passed to us, including the horrors. My family loved one another, supported one another and prayed for one another. We kept each other. Not all veterans have that. Reach out to veterans and thank them.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

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