Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who do you know that you wish more people could meet?

Who is the person in your life who you most wanted to introduce to other people? For me it was my grandfather. He was of another era. His voice, cadence and dialect were like watching an old Frank Capra or George Cukor movie from the 1940's. He was always ready with amusing stories, riddles or a practical joke.

Growing up we would visit nearly every Sunday and spend a few hours with him and my grandmother. One of my favorite memories of him, and I learned one of his favorite of me too, was the day he was pitching tennis balls to my wiffle ball bat in the back yard. I was fairly young and I was dismal and I was getting frustrated with myself. Embarrassed, I collected several of the missed balls that were scattered by my feet and tossed them back to him so we could try again. A few rolled behind him and into the bushes forcing him to crawl in to retrieve them. My frustration grew; I couldn't even toss a ball right. I was determined to hit the next pitch with all my might.

He brushed himself off, paused for a moment, asked if I was ready and then hurled the brightly colored ball at me. I concentrated and hit it perfectly on the fat part of the bat with an exploding crack. Literally, the 'ball' exploded into hundreds of little pieces! At first I was scared, what had I done now? Then I was bewildered as my grandfather began laughing heartily, like Santa Claus, but much more mischievous. As we walked toward each other he held out his hand and revealed three large unripe crabapples, the same coloring as the balls he had been pitching me. He had switched them when he was in the bushes. He was equal parts thoroughly amused with himself and proud of me for finally getting a hit squarely and forcefully, with a smaller object to boot. My expression seared itself on his memory. From that point on he would periodically begin laughing spontaneously during our visits and retell the story for the next twenty or so years.

I loved when he told stories. They could be from his childhood or from a recent visit to the doctor, he always had an anecdote. During our visits he would hold court from his leather chair in the corner of the living room, or in the dining room sitting in the only armed chair. In the den he would faithfully watch the Red Sox or Patriots during the time when they were contenders but not yet regular champions.

One of the saddest days of my life was helping him into the car at the funeral of my aunt, his youngest daughter. His sudden sobs were unexpected, heartbreaking and profound. In time, the stories, riddles and jokes returned even as his health began to decline. We were fortunate to have him grace this earth for nearly a century. Although he has been gone for several years now, whenever I hear a story or riddle well told or witness a prank well played, I think of him and smile. Lately, I find myself remembering him and wishing more people could have met him and benefitted from his humor and class.

Who do you know that you wish more people could meet? How many people are being introduced to you? Share your gifts freely and with great authenticity, because the world will be better for it.