My grandfather was like a magnet. Wherever he was, people were drawn to him in this crazy, inexplicable way. When I was little and we were on vacation or out to eat, this used to bother me. I thought, "Why can't we just go out like a normal family without people interrupting all the time?" I also remember that this was a sentiment completely unshared by him. He never was too busy to give his full attention to whoever stopped by. I have a feeling that most people, whether it was a five year old kid, a teenager, or adult always walked away feeling like my grandfather was truly delighted to have talked to them. And he was.
It's impossible to pinpoint one thing that gave him that magnetic quality because there wasn't just one thing. But for me, something that sticks out is his refusal to let go of his positive, optimistic attitude. He was virtually never negative or down, and like the sun, he brightened the moods of everyone around him. I remember him talking about the effect of a sour, negative person. He said that type of person drained the life out of those they were around. I guess that somewhere along the way, he made a choice to be just the opposite.
I can remember when I was a little girl my grandfather being a comforting presence when anything went wrong. I remember as a teenager going to him with the various and inevitably dramatic ups and downs of my high school experience and always walking away from him our talks with a bigger perspective that lightened the burden of my current trial. He could make me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry. He made it nearly impossible for me to remain mad, even when I wanted to be. He could enjoy life even in the midst of times that would send other people into depression.
I've realized that this is a quality I want in my life. I don't want to be sucked under by the tide of circumstances, allowing my emotions and attitude to be driven by the stuff going on around me. But how is it possible knowing that the reality is some days are going to be full of garbage?
Well, one thing I know is that my grandfather was a realist. He didn't live in la la land, willing positive thinking to change his reality. Nope. He just lived with perspective. He had his priorities solidly in order, so when a circumstance here or an obstacle there came around, it didn't rock his world. He knew to expect that unexpected things would happen. He believed firmly, come good or come bad, God was always in control. He also had discovered the secret that moaning and groaning, complaining and fretting, were sure paths to ulcers, but not necessarily happiness. He subscribed to the belief that in situations that we couldn't change, why not do everything possible to make the best of them? That's why I remember laughing with him in the hospital the week before he died as he told jokes, boating across a lake laughing until we cried as we sped across the waves while he had cancer, playing games with him when I was sad, and sharing his chocolate toffee when I was down.
My grandfather grieved when tragedy struck, he was sober when circumstances dictated, he shared the burdens of those around him every day of his life, yet he also lived with unrelenting joy. He was never inappropriately light hearted, but he chose to take the circumstances he was given, and do the best with them.
I've had some marked failures in this department in my 26 years. Like the time when Nathan dropped my new laptop on the ground resulting in $925.00 worth of repairs, and I exhibited some very unbecoming behavior. Or the time the transmission on the car went out after having taken the car into the dealer twice before in the same month, resulting in a less than even keel attitude on my part. Or the time when we were driving to Birmingham, took a wrong turn, and ended up driving an hour out of the way, and I acted like my world had crumbled right in front of my eyes. I think I might have even cried. Yes, this hasn't always been my strong suit, but with God's help, I believe it still might be!
I have lived long enough to know that terrible, tremendously painful things happen, and unfortunately, grieving is just as much a part of life as laughing. This post is not about trying to be an escapist and live in a world of my own making where everything gets a happy twist. Instead, it's about making a choice about how I will face the big and the small tragedies of life. I know I won't ever look back and regret moments where I chose not to worry. I won't look back and regret going without drama and tears when something unexpected (like termites!) strikes. I won't regret enjoying what I can from what life serves me, instead of focusing on the parts I wish were not my portion. I know it's not easy because there are so few people who truly live their lives in this pattern. But I also know it can be done. I've seen it for myself.