I remember once visiting my grandparents on Okinawa as a young boy and learning two things about my grandpa. First, he loved candy bars and always had a few hidden in his desk. Second, he was terrible at spelling. The second was a surprising realization for me. To be a great man one need not necessarily be a good speller. You see, that was something I never learned, instead something I always seemed to know. My grandpa, in spite of his inability to spell, was a great man.
It was during that same trip that I first saw pictures of my great-grandpa and great-grandma Larsen. I asked my grandpa where they lived, genuinely perplexed as to why I’d never seen them before. My grandpa looked at me and just said, “oh, they died a long time ago”. As a young child completely naïve to the facts of life and death, I felt a stab of sadness for my grandpa.
“Aren’t you sad?” I asked. I couldn’t comprehend how life can simply go on after losing someone so important in your life.
The truth is, I still don’t.
That vacation, just like every visit to my grandparents, ended with my grandpa gathering my family together for a blessing. Those blessings were always a powerful and special thing to me. They offered needed comfort when our goodbyes always came too soon, and ensured my family’s safety on our long journey home. Even at that young age, I knew that my grandpa had a special connection with God. His faith and dedication to doing the Lord’s work was so strong, that if grandpa asked for God to watch over us, you know that He’d deliver.
There are a few things that I will always remember about grandpa. I’ll remember his one piece jumpsuits that he always loved to wear. The way his hair was always immaculately combed with the part on his left, and his large thick-rimmed glasses. I’ll remember the way he smelled. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll always remember his ever-present grin, the one that made him look like he was up to no good.
My grandpa always had an open heart. His capacity for empathy was unsurpassed. He never passed judgment on anyone’s shortcomings, and I should know. Even when fully aware of my own adolescent misdeeds, he never looked at me with anything but complete love and the profound belief that I would eventually find the right path. My grandpa seemed to know that things would work out well for me in the end, and I can only hope that I’ve come to earn that support that he always had for me.
My grandpa had the tendency to cry during movies. He also had the tendency to hide defensively behind his handkerchief, and deny completely that he had been.
During the 6 long years it took for me to complete my undergraduate’s degree, I took some time off from school. I moved to Maryland in the hopes of making it as a guitarist in my friend’s band. While things didn’t go quite as I had planned, it was a learning experience and I felt like I was beginning to understand what it meant to be an adult. I drove cross-country back to California a few months later with a friend of mine, and we stayed a night at my grandparents’ house here in Las Vegas. I still remember what my grandpa said to me when he first saw me. He gave me a hug, looked me over with a smile on his face, and said that it looked like I had matured a lot. He told me that he believed that my time off school could be nothing but good for me, and could already see the difference in the way I carried myself.
I can’t express how much his words meant to me. Never mind the fact that I still didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, or that I had just a few months ago withdrew from all my classes and dropped out of school with the intention of never going back. Grandpa could do nothing but look at me with a smile on his face and pride in his voice.
One of the last time’s I saw my grandpa was at my brother’s wedding. Grandpa gave the opening prayer for the ceremony, and I remember standing there between my brothers, beside my grandfather, and having to choke back tears. I remembered all those times that my grandpa had blessed over me and my family. I remembered the constant support and faith he always had in me. I felt so blessed to be descended from such a humble, hard-working and loving man, and being in the midst of such a loving family.
My grandpa is an inspiration to all of us. He was a kind man, and was always quick to forgive. He was always able to empathize with those that needed a helping hand. My grandpa never judged others, and instead chose to excuse their faults and focus on their good.
I will always be grateful to have had him in my life, and I can only hope to one day be just a little bit like him.