I am blessed to have known both sets of grandparents and both have had a significant impact on my life. Many people miss out on knowing and spending time with the generations that came before them. I value the many experiences and lessons that I have learned from my entire family, but these 3 critical lessons learned from my grandfathers have defined me and made me the person that I am today:
Keep A Positive Attitude
Both my grandfathers grew up and lived in small town or rural area in northeast Mississippi. While neither would be considered well schooled or educated, they both possessed wisdom and characteristics that stretch beyond what one can learn from a formal education.
The ability to look at the positive in most situations is a trait that everyone can benefit from. My grandfathers seemed to always exude a positive mindset toward all that was going on around them. One grandfather never said much, which also means negative words never came out of his mouth.
My other grandfather was more open in his communication, but his attitude seemed to always look at the positive in most situations. I can only recall a few instances where negative “adult language” was blasted out of his mouth. But the harsh words were directed at a particularly challenging catfish that was not cooperating with the cleaning process. Other than cleaning fish after a fresh catch, both my grandfathers taught me to keep a positive attitude.
My paternal grandfather - Pop James - was a business man that owned an automobile parts and repair shop in the small town of Hamilton, Mississippi. At various times he also sold tractors, gasoline and other services that would benefit the local area which was primarily a farming community. He also had 6 children plus a large brood of grandchildren.
During most of my childhood, Pop James lived in a small house across the street from his repair shop. Holiday gatherings could attract 40-60 family members to his humble 6 room house with 1 bathroom. That would also include groups of children in all age brackets.
Our current society seems to get uncomfortable when 6 people are in a room and we only have 5 chairs. I recall gatherings at Pop James home where over 40 people were in a room that was not much bigger than most bedrooms. Sofas built for 3 people would have 13 people crammed in and on them. People on top of people on top of people.
I recently ran across some pictures and slides that backed up my memories. You could count 25 people in one picture sitting around enjoying Christmas dinner or opening presents (or a single present since multiple gifts did not make sense with that many in the family). The one constant in all the pictures is a peaceful, calm Pop James sitting in the middle. We never heard a stern word. He never seemed stressed. He always seems to remain calm even if chaos was breaking out all around him.
A family that large can also experience many ups and downs including marriage, divorce, birth and death. Pop James demeanor and countenance never changed. I learned later in life that the foundation of his peace was his spiritual beliefs. Pop James taught me to stay calm.
My maternal grandfather - Granddaddy - may rank as one of the most influential people in my life. I was the first grandchild born into his family and I think that the bond that was created may be as strong as any in a family structure.
We spent a bunch of time together. I would stay at his house for many weeks during the summer breaks from school. We would go fishing, work in his garden and just spend time in his small 10X10 hut at the gate of the chemical plant where he worked as a guard.
But I can honestly say that Grandaddy “never met a stranger” and that made an impact on me. He would visit his local hospital and just walk up and down the halls stopping in to say hello to almost everyone. He did the same at the nursing home. I still remember him talking to people about almost any topic. He seemed to always have a genuine heart for other people. Grandaddy taught me to always be friendly.
I miss both of my Grandfathers and think of them often. But I am thankful for the lifelong lessons that they taught me - be positive, stay calm and be friendly.
I am sure you learned some valuable lessons from your grandfathers or relatives also. Share the wisdom in the comments below.