My grandfather was an interesting man. Quiet but with a boisterous sense of humor. Stubborn, but soft hearted. And the man could cuss. He probably said “Shit” more then he said “The” to be honest. I once tried to keep up with how many times in a day he cussed. I had filled a small notepad’s page with strikes by lunchtime when I simply gave up. He wouldn’t open up a lot, especially about his time in WW2, but when he did share things they were always worth listening to. Some were just funny like the reason he hates Sea Bees or the many pranks he and his buddies would play on one another. But some were important life lessons.
The absolute best advice he ever gave me happened one day while we were driving around town. My grandfather would park in the fire lane at stores. He was basically one of the founding father’s of the town and everyone just sort of let him get away with it. He was about to pull into one when a very elderly woman started to cross the road in front of him. He turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and told me to watch closely. He smiled at the woman, waved, and muttered, “Why hello there Mrs. Openbottom. You miserable stuck up bitch. I hope somebody fucks your dog.” She saw him smile, saw him wave, and simply assumed he was voicing a greeting so she smile and waved right back at him. At the time, I just thought it was hilarious. But hidden in that joke was a lesson that has served me well throughout life and has gotten me out of trouble more then a few times. Whenever someone is irritating the every living Hell out of me, I just smile at them, wave, and mutter whatever the Hell I want to at them. And they’ll smile and wave right back at me thinking I’m the most pleasant person in the world. You have no idea how many times I used that in the hotel industry. I’d have my coworkers in stitches with some of the crap I’d call them.
Whatever ability I have to project an aura of confidence I learned from him. The man honestly didn’t understand boundaries. He once marched up to where some divers were looking for a boy who swam in the wrong spot in the harbor. If you jump in wrong the mud at the bottom would literally just envelop your leg and you were stuck. Unless there is a diver nearby, that’s pretty much it. There was police tape set up around a perimeter but he just walked under it and headed over to a cop he knew like he belonged there. I had a friend whose dad was in the fire department and he was there because they had called his dad in on his day off while he was out with his son. We chatted and eventually we saw the diver bring the boy up. It was the first time I had seen a dead body. It shook me quite a bit, but I held it together. I was all of like 14 at the time. Maybe younger. My grandfather never missed a beat. He saw them trying to do CPR on the kid and knew he needed to leave and give them space. So we left. But he never looked like he didn’t belong. He just had that air about him. I never saw the man unsure about anything.
Of all the things he taught me, those two lessons have brought me the furthest in life.