My grandfather has been one of the most quintessential people in my life. He's the only man I can honestly say has always been there for me no matter what from birth until his mind would no longer let him fill that role. He's the man who taught me how to ride a bike and lectured me about the hemline of my skirts. He was the closest thing to a "dad" I had in the moments when it mattered most.
While I was back home visiting last week I went to go see him. He's in a nursing home now with Parkinson's Disease and moderate dementia. There are days he doesn't know his own name much the less those of family and friends. A friend from my Mom's church stopped by and saw him while I was there - someone who he likely wouldn't have even recognized before the dementia, but since she's there often visiting a friend she stops and says hi.
She came up to him with a big genuine smile and said "Jack, you're looking good today!"
Without missing a beat he looked right at her and said, "I'd rather be good lookin'!" and smiled the same smile from ear to ear that I remember seeing with every joke he delivered for as long as I can remember.
I love that his sense of humor is still intact and he's enjoying life. He's not going to let the fact that he can't remember most things get him down - he's going to keep RIGHT ON doing what he loved most - making himself and others smile...even when he doesn't probably remember why he does it because that's who he was and in some ways still is. He doesn't let what's wrong in his life stop him from doing what his heart tells him is right - bringing others joy.
When I told him who I was, he looked at me puzzled yet smiling and said, "When did you get so old?"
I quipped back "When you did!"
And that same smile appeared.
Yup - he raised me to do the same. To bring others joy even on the days when I'm having a hard time. While I was there he was complimenting me over and over on always being a good kid and showering me with praise. He didn't know it, but I'd been having a rough day mentally and was very grateful for hearing that I was still a good kid. :)
We exchanged several rounds of teasing and smiles before I had to leave. It might have been the best moments I have had with him in half a decade.
At the end of the day, we make the choices in how we choose to spend our time on this earth. Certainly not every moment can be filled with happiness and laughter, but I'd like to think I've taken a page from his life. I'd like to think I spend my time and energy lifting up others with a smile and some encouragement rather than ignoring them or letting them down because at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. My grandfather taught me that. Can he help you learn it too?