This I Believe

John - Roswell, Georgia
Entered on March 15, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family

A Hero’s Big Dreams

Grandpa Sam sure has big dreams. That’s what my dad always said of his step dad.

You see Grandpa Sam was a kind and gentle man, much as my dad, but they never seemed to get very close because Grandpa Sam wasn’t my dad’s dad.

My dad’s real dad died long before I was born, and was a great success in the construction industry in the frontier days of early Miami. He was a hard worker, philanthropist, good father of five, and a pillar of his church. When he died of cancer in his early forties, he was a hard act to follow.

Then came Grandpa Sam; an itinerant house painter, farmer, and jack of all trades. What did Grandma Maude see in him? None of the family could imagine. “He sure has big dreams”. That’s all they ever said about him.

He had none of the great characteristics of my dad’s real dad. He wasn’t handsome to the eye, certainly not successful in the traditional sense, and never really accepted by the family.

I remember as a youngster that at family gatherings he was quiet, but always most attentive to my grandmother…and largely ignored by everyone other than my grandmother. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, as my aunts never really ignored anyone at family gatherings. He just was not fondled over the way that my aunts normally fondled over most of the males who were considered a patriarch of one type of another.

I don’t have any prominent memories of close times with Grandpa Sam either, except if you count the terrifying experience of speeding down an old Georgia country road in his rusting pickup. For a long time, I also found him unremarkable. That was until my Grandma Maude finally had to be placed in a nursing home.

Unfortunately, this nursing home was across town from where Grandpa Sam was staying. Every day for a couple of years, until Grandma Maude passed on, his routine was the same. He would rise early, make three sandwiches and pack them neatly in a bag. Then he would dress in his ever-present black suit, white shirt and solemn black tie.

He’d then take several busses across town for the next hour or so. During this time, he’d eat his breakfast sandwich, the first of the three.

The whole day was then spent at my grandmother’s side, giving the soft comfort that was the one thing he was superior at. At lunchtime, he ate his second sandwich.

At the end of each day (seven days a week) he’d leave the nursing home and walk down the road to a church and pray (I’m sure for Grandma Maude). He’d then catch the bus for the long ride home, during which he ate his dinner sandwich.

I believe in heroes. Heroes in this world appear in many forms. Unfortunately, many of them are not recognized until it’s too late to tell them that you admire them.

My dad and I grew to admire Grandpa Sam greatly, but we never got to tell him.

When Grandma Maude died, he left for California to rejoin a sister of his who was living there. We heard from her a few months later that he had passed away. He left as quietly from our lives as he came.

I regret that I didn’t get to know this unlikely hero better. I suspect, however, that even if any of us had been inclined to talk to him more, there probably wouldn’t have been much conversation from his side.

His big dreams kept him occupied.