This I Believe

Shaylen - Swanton, Ohio
Entered on September 15, 2006

There was a time several years ago when my family came over and we played croquet on our back lawn. My two uncles, my sister, and I used striped mallets to hit the heavy croquet balls through many hoops distributed in figure eight form in the dry summer grass. Not long into the game, my sister and I realized that we were not very good croquet players. My uncles were numerous hoops ahead and intent on beating one another. My sister and I were discouraged and almost ready to give up. Just in time to ease our distress, we saw my Grandpa shuffling towards us, with a quirky little smile on his face. He whistled and coyly averted his eyes, kicking our croquet balls ahead a hoop and wandering away. My sister and I started giggling then burst into hysteria when my uncles asked why we were laughing. We only laughed harder when my grandpa kindly winked at us. This is one of my all time favorite memories. That’s my grandpa for you; he plays the game with his heart and shows his compassion with small deeds everyday.

My Grandpa Dave has an eventful history. I don’t know it all (because I wasn’t alive) but I do know this: he was a clerk in a war overseas, he worked at Chrysler, he survived skin cancer, he married my Grandma Jeanne when she still had her Irish red hair, and he helped father my uncles and mother. In my lifetime, I have come to see him as one of my biggest supporters. I have decided to be a Fine Arts/ Art History major in college, which many consider “soft,” “easy,” or “useless.” But it is what I love, and I know he loves it too. He painted at some point in his life and so he likes to see my work and hear about it. Throughout the past few years, I have slowly accumulated more and more of his art supplies. At first he just gave me books on art, then he gave me his really nice wooden paint supplies case that had oil paints and brushes in it, along with a business card to Herb’s Art Supplies Store in Royal Oak, Michigan from 1968. He handed me his expensive and precious supplies with a soft smile that said, “I believe in you.” At random visits, I remember he would quietly hand me more art materials he found hidden in some basement corner. Now I have charcoal sticks, an easel, pastels, and a compact watercolor palette. His constant but unannounced and modest attention has shown me that my dreams are also his.

Actions speak louder than words, and my grandpa proves that wisdom doesn’t have to be spoken. At hectic family gatherings when the kitchen is packed with cooking food and the living room is packed with people, his silent strength and patience keeps everything moving behind the scenes. He is always willing to listen to anyone, most notably my talkative youngest sister, who never gets the attention she deserves. He is also always ready to help someone. He picks up the dog poop, surprises us with fresh raspberries for a treat, copies photos, always drives, and does everything else you can imagine.

I believe in the virtues my grandpa exemplifies; that life is about kindness in every small act and that wisdom is finding joy and love in everything and giving both back. I believe in what he has unknowingly taught he, and I believe that I can try to live my life like him.