Reverence to the Stage Builder

Today my grandfather passed away. He was in his late 80’s, and he had dementia for years. Honestly, it’s for the best. For a long time he hadn’t known who any of us were. At least now his pain is over. 

In putting together his final tribute my family asked everyone to contribute a memory of him. I sat for a long time with this. Eventually it dawned on me that when looking back at an often sad and miserable childhood every memory I had of my grandpa was, at least in hindsight, is a positive one. The problem I discovered though, was that I could not find one single memory where my grandfather was the shining light.  

I was saddened by the fact that I had no memory to contribute and, I was disappointed in myself for caring so little that I couldn’t find even one moment where my grandpa mattered enough for me to have a clear memory of. It’s not that I didn’t care or even that my grandpa wasn’t memorable. He was a delightful man. A good man. A kind man. He was the kind of man any partner, friend, or family member would be ecstatic to have.

In order to tell you the story of my grandfather I have to first tell you a little about my grandmother. The two of them had been married something like 65 years, and it was a storybook sort of love they shared. They were the perfect match. My grandmother is this bright, beautiful, shining light who, like myself, adores the spotlight. She loves to create magic little moments where no matter who you are, you feel like the most important person in the universe when my grandma gives you her time and attention. She makes you feel like a star. Somehow she creates this glowing energy of love, trust, and inspiration that opens up even the most cynical soul a world of elation, delight, and belonging. In her spotlight, everyone shines.

But here’s the thing about that. People like my grandma (and myself) only succeed when we have our production team; those people who proactively offer us everything we need to thrive. My grandpa happily wore all the hats. As if by magic, he made every incredible spotlight moment spark into life. In my grandmother’s life he was the producer, lighting team, stage manager, technical director, photographer, personal assistant, finance backer, and set builder.

Whatever grandma needed, he made it happen. He worked so she could raise and support her family. He drove her all over the country to allow her to connect with her adoring fans (very often my family or my cousins). No matter where they went, what they did, or who they were with my grandfather worked diligently to ensure that the stage was set for her. His love for her was endless. His patience ever bearing.  With a positive attitude, a sharp wit, and a deviation from the spotlight himself, his life’s goal was to love, support, and cherish his Audrey Hepburn with a capacity that I’m not certain this world shall see again.

From garage sale to estate sale. From Peter Pan to Doris Day. From chess to poetry. From letters to story time. No matter what the moment, my grandfather was there, faithfully creating the endless series of tiny life plays that made everyone around him a star.

My grandfather was the type of person who thrived on creating the spotlight for others. He was the type of man who kept his word, was unquestionably faithful, always ready, and with the mind to solve all the little problems before any of us knew they even existed.

Until today I had not realized how lucky we all were to have this incredible man lifting us up. I am so grateful and so humbled by this man and the love for his wife, his family, and his ability to spark those millions of tiny moments that become the feelings we remember rather than the memories we forget. Thank you for all you have done. Thank you for all that you are. I love you grandpa. Thank you. Until we meet again.

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.” Humphry Davy