This I Believe

James - Andover, New Jersey
Entered on April 21, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, gratitude
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April 21, 2006

Seizing the Right Opportunities

Eight years ago, my grandpa was dying from stomach cancer. His stomach had grown to the size of a watermelon, and he could barely walk. He was in pain, and I could tell that my dad was in pain, too; he didn’t want to lose his dad so soon.

When grandpa died, dad cried for a long time. He’s told me many times “Grandpa died too soon.” I felt as if he really wanted to say that he wishes he had spent more time with him; that he wishes he had hugged him more often; that he wishes he had gone with him on more of his walks; that he wishes he had enjoyed more Oolong tea with him on the back porch; or that he wishes he had just sat and talked with him more.

What I’ve learned from my grandpa and dad’s relationship is that life can be short, but it can be filled with opportunities to seize. And I believe in seizing the right ones: the big opportunities like going to school; living a clean, drug-free life; and doing charity. And the smaller opportunities like driving my brother to school, so we can talk on the way there; helping my dad pull out weeds even though he didn’t ask me to; keeping my mom company while she does paperwork she hates; helping my sister clean up her room, so we can talk to each other and catch up; and spending time with my grandma while she knits bright green socks for herself during the winter.

I’ve taken so many of these opportunities for granted in my life, and I didn’t realize it until dad kept telling me “Grandpa died too soon.” I was letting too many opportunities to spend time with my family go because I was taking them for granted. At the time, I just didn’t get it.

In the final years of grandpa’s life, dad hugged him more often, walked with him outside more, enjoyed more Oolong tea with him on the back porch, and talked with him more. They both seemed happier and more in touch with each other. Grandpa’s pain was still there, but it was hard to tell from the smile on his face as he beat dad in Chinese chess. Grandpa and dad bonded closer to each other than ever before, and, I believe, it was because they seized the right opportunities.