Getting older is like walking down a leaf-lined trail in the woods. Once you’ve gone a ways, you can look back and see where you’ve come from. At least some of the turns start to make sense and you can appreciate with new eyes the wonder of what lies around you.
You can also start to notice themes throughout your journey. On a walk in the woods, it might be how maple leaves always catch your attention, the frequent scurrying of squirrel paws or the chirp of a certain bird. On the journey of life, it may be the things that have stuck with you through the years, the things that you’re drawn to, the things you love.
Take my Grandpa’s life for instance. After this Nebraska-born man joined the Navy in his teens, everything Navy has held a special place in his heart. First, the Navy itself, then lighthouses, now restoring and building model ships have kept the nautical lines strong in his life. They also extend into something else Grandpa loves.
“I would have thrown it away if you hadn’t taken it,” the jolly old blacksmith told Grandpa as they admired the five-foot, restored pond yacht. The boat had been the blacksmith’s childhood toy but needed some serious repair after being damaged in a tornado and neglected for years. After discovering how much Grandpa likes all things ship related, the blacksmith offered him the boat. Grandpa took on the project and went to work, scraping paint and repainting, studying historic information, crafting new parts, even tying the rat lines himself. After hundreds of hours of labor, the pond yacht was ready, and, oh, is she a beauty now. She represents one of the other things Grandpa loves: fixing things and giving them a new start on life. It makes me think of how God takes on the wreckage of our lives and makes us ready to sail again.
Yet another of Grandpa’s loves is making people laugh. He’s the one you can always count on to tell a joke. But he can tell it with such a straight face, you might take him seriously if you’re not on your toes!
Along with that, he also loves marshmallows and pecan pie and really has such a sweet tooth, we don’t know how he gets by. Maybe it’s because he’s disciplined in other areas of his life. Grandpa’s the one who walked miles in a frozen January when he needed to get in shape. That’s partly why he could walk himself out of the hospital a day after having a hip replacement! He’s also the one who is ready to leave to work ten minutes early. (I know because we used to work together.) All his life – from his job at the brickyard when he was sixteen through now – he’s been willing to put in a good day’s work and do things well. He’s also ready to learn new things (like with the ship models). We know he’ll never really retire until he simply can’t work anymore. You could say work is a love of his, too, though he might not admit it. I think this has been an example to the rest of his family.
But more than ships, lighthouses, repairing old things, jokes, marshmallows, and the satisfaction and pride of a job well done, Grandpa has another love: his family – his wife of 58 years, his children and his grandchildren, his brothers and sisters. Sure, our family isn’t perfect, and I think Grandpa would say he’d do some things differently if he could now, but when push comes to shove, we know Grandpa loves us.
And that really counts for something because there’s a big difference between pouring time into boats and knots and work and pouring your life into people. All those other things are good and can be used in wonderful ways, but people are eternal. Someday Grandpa will leave those other loves – just like you leave the trees, the squirrels and the bird songs when you leave the woods – but those people he loves on can, by God’s grace, stick with him through eternity. How awesome is that?
I know I’m grateful for the “loves” of Grandpa’s life. They will be a part of the “Grandpa” stories my family will enjoy getting to share with his newest little love – his great-granddaughter.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa! I’m glad to say you are one of my “loves”.
What about you? What are the “loves” of your life? Are your priorities where you want them to be? It’s not too late to change course and set sail for a different sea.