This is it. Tomorrow I’ll turn 25. Although I was playfully dreading it before, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I’m actually dreading it now. I keep thinking of all the ways I don’t want to celebrate – at least, not without my grandpa.
It’s been two weeks but the ache hasn’t dulled, and I’m angry that this is the first “event” following Mother’s Day that I’ve had to experience without him. It seems cruel. Pre-25, I had a wonderful grandfather that I saw nearly every day. Post-25, I don’t.
True that I have the memories and all of the wonderful times we had together. But that isn’t the same as having him here. It’s not the same as having him tell me one more lame joke, as having him sit down to a celebratory birthday dinner where he puts far too much salt on his food, as having him pretend he didn’t get me a gift and teasing me about forgetting my birthday all together, as having him there when I blow out the birthday candles and sharing some cake with me.
Grandpa wouldn’t want me to be sad. He wouldn’t want me to mourn. But I can’t help it, and I do. Frankly, I feel silly for having started this series in the first place because all of the reasons I “dreaded” turning 25 before now seem insignificant and embarrassing. (I’d have abandoned the columns entirely if I hadn’t been struck by some form of inspiration a few weeks back, when I was able to knock out the rest of the series. Only difference is I’ve removed my final piece, about happiness, and replaced it with this one.)
The day before my 25th birthday, I find myself selfishly upset that Grandpa won’t be here to see it. A birthday without my grandpa doesn’t feel like something worth celebrating. I’d rather crawl into my bed, pretend I’m not turning 25, and stay there for a long, long time. But I know I can’t.
Instead, I’d like to share some things my grandpa taught me in the glorious 24 years that I was fortunate enough to have him in my life – because I know he’d want it that way.
Fight for what you believe in. My grandpa always did things his way. In some sense, he was stubborn, but he was also so wholly good that usually his way was not only the right way, but also the way that made sense. He pushed all of his kids and grandkids to fight for their beliefs and to stand up for themselves and others. He thought it was especially important to fight for the people you believe in, too.
Everyone deserves a second chance. It didn’t matter what you’d done, what you’d said, or how deep it hurt — Grandpa believed in unwavering forgiveness.
Be kind. Grandpa loved helping people when he could. He gave things away. He offered strangers rides. He provided acquaintances with food. He even fed squirrels peanuts because he thought they looked hungry. It was important to him to extend kindness wherever (and whenever) he could.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it is broken, then you probably only need some duct tape and a screwdriver to get it going again.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Even if that means you end up with dozens of old watches that don’t work anymore, tucked away in a briefcase buried under the other mountains of things.
A smile can change the world. Or at the very least, someone’s day, and you never know what kind of ripple effect that will have.
Never grow up. Where’s the fun in that? Grandpa loved gadgets. He was always on the hunt for his next “toy,” whether it was a boat, an Escalade, or a pen that was secretly a knife.
Be grateful for what you have. If you’re alive and well, then you’re fortunate.
Kisses count as currency. Hugs, too.
Grandparents play by a different set of rules. Those rules include: “no” is not a proper answer; “don’t tell your parents” is fine if your Grandma and Grandpa are saying it; and there’s no such thing as being too spoiled.
Indulge. If you want something, and you can afford it, get it. If you want to spend your money, then do it. Grandpa used to say, “I like giving you kids money because I like to see you happy. What’s the point of having money if we don’t spend it? I can’t take it with me.” And then he’d slip me $50.
Lighten up. Breathe. Be happy. While there were times when Grandpa was angry or frustrated or sad, mostly, he was smiley, joyous, and full of life. He had an infectious smile that was so big, so genuine, and so warm, the corners of his eyes would crinkle upward when he grinned. He didn’t like to fret, and he was always telling me, “You worry too much!” usually followed by a quiet, but sincere, reassurance that everything would be fine.
So even though I don’t want to, I’ll go on. I’ll have a birthday. And I’ll turn 25, for my grandpa — but just this once.
This is the final installment in Crystal’s 25 to Life column. See her previous columns here.