My grandpa is a superhero. Not the kind of superhero who wears a cape and has an alter ego and fights crime — although he was at one time an incredible cop AND detective AND he was in the navy, so he certainly did his fair share of crime-fighting. But he’s a superhero in every other way.
I think I’ve always kind of known that. As a kid, he seemed a bit like a walking Encyclopedia. If I fell down and got hurt, he was Dr. Grandpa. If I lost something I loved, he was Detective Grandpa. If I needed help with homework, he was Professor Grandpa. He was constantly morphing to embody whichever role his grandchildren needed at that very moment.
It was my grandpa who first took me fishing, where he showed me how to wrangle a worm onto the hook. (When I was really grossed out, he let me use fake bait instead.) It was my grandpa who encouraged me to pursue drawing and introduced me to his relative who was interested in art to have her take a look at my work. It was my grandpa who told me I could do anything in the entire world if I put my mind to it, and if anyone told me otherwise, he’d march down there and give him a piece of his mind. And maybe a piece of his fist, too.
It was also my grandpa who was probably the first person to really inspire me to want to tell stories. Anyone who knows Grandpa — or Hank, if you prefer — will tell you three things about him.
1.) He’s got a heart of gold. Ever heard that phrase, “he’d give you the shirt off his back”? That phrase was totally invented to embody Grandpa’s spirit.
2. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. Sometimes it’s in the form of a joke. Sometimes it’s in a strongly-worded, politically-driven letter. Or sometimes it’s at a local town meeting, which is being filmed, and will air on local television. Seriously, don’t mess with him.
3. He’s a storyteller. He’s got stories that would make even the most prolific writers seethe with jealousy. And they’re all true.
Grandpa’s ability to have this seemingly never-ending amount of intriguing stories — as well as his ability to to transform into whatever anyone needed at any given moment — stemmed from the fact that he had done, experienced, and learned essentially everything. He’s been a cop and a detective and a chef and a gas station owner and a small business owner; in his spare time, he’s taught himself about law and medicine and politics and cars and technology and how to fix just about anything. It’s no wonder he’s got plenty of stories to tell.
And Grandpa can charm a crowd with them. His tales could warm even the coldest of hearts.
While his kindness, his strength, his courage, his perseverance, and his thoughtfulness are all things I admire, and all things that have helped shape who I am today, it’s his stories, and the way he makes you feel like he’s giving a little part of himself to you, the way it feels like you’re re-living that moment right alongside him, that have perhaps impacted me most. I don’t know when he’s found the time to experience all of these things, let alone share them all with us (not when he’s been so busy being a doctor/professor/lawyer/scientist), but he has.
It’s almost like he’s a superhero.
Mostly because he is.