I learned as a very young child that selflessness is the truest from of love. I recall, very well, one of the first selfless acts I performed that was not initially comfortable. In fact, it was initially painful and was really, really hard at 9 years old. However, the sweet rewards of doing something for someone you love, making a sacrifice, became ever-lasting that day and shaped who I would be as an adult. I have a token that I keep nearby where I work, that forever warms my heart with a fond reminder-- for it was there, the day I learned this lesson.
I was about 8 or 9 years old. I loved staying at my Grandparents' house on many weekends in the summer. My best friend lived across the street, and I would awake every morning to the smell of pancakes and bacon in Grandma's kitchen. Sure...they spoiled me with love, but that's what Grandparents do best! My Grandfather, Cy, I just called "Grampa." He had a wonderful, magical workshop in the back of the property. It smelled of fresh cut pine, turpentine and the faint scent of tobacco from his pipe. It was here that my Grandpa would sacrifice MANY weekends building something special for me! Like my Mom, he was incredibly creative. He would tell me to draw what I needed…a scooter, a wooden sailboat, or maybe an airplane for my G.I Joe! Then I would go play with my friends and stay out of the workshop for days, or more than a week at times! Low and behold, when all was done, my grandfather would emerge with his creation. A special creation...made just for me! In future blogs, I will share photos of some of these things I still have.
I recall it was not always easy for Grampa to sacrifice those days in the hot work shop, instead of golfing with his fellow retired friends, or doing household chores for Grandma. He LOVED to golf! But, he never said “no” to me. He would sigh at times a little...when he saw my drawing! haaaa But, he always figured out a way to bring my little paper dreams to life. Sacrifice...out of love for his little pal that looked at him like he was a super hero.
So on this one Sunny weekend Morning, my parents had come to pick me up from my Grandparents house after a long summer week I spent with them. They would have dinner before heading home with me, but before that, they planned to visit the local swap meet. I loved going to those! They were looking for antiques, and I loved the old toys and things there! So, as we were about to go to this swap meet, I expressed that I had no allowance or Birthday money left! How was I to buy any toys or cool stuff?? My parents, trying to teach me the value of money at the time, shrugged and said, "Well, save up and next time you will have money to buy something, Tom." I was totally deflated. Even my "poor little Tommy, sad expression act" didn't work.
Grampa taps me on the shoulder, bends down to my height, and removing his pipe from his teeth for a moment, whispers to me to "get something special for yourself today" and pushes a five dollar bill in my pocket. FIVE BUCKS! I was absolutely elated!! The things I could buy!....at least 1000 plastic army men, maybe a real World War two helmet...or gas powered airplane, or that big yellow boomerang I wanted...I was RICH! I ran to the car and my parents, though both raising an eyebrow, tolerated the whole thing and off we went.
We got to that swap meet and the day was as golden as the opportunities I saw! I picked up, and put down, what seemed like hundreds of potential treasures I could buy with that five dollars! What a day! However, something happened that I never would have expected. Right next to a plastic Monster Model that was only a dollar, on this dust old card table, was this little odd statue. It was white, made of ceramic. It wasn't long before I noticed it was a ceramic statue of a little man golfing, with a big golf ball next to him! The guy selling the things at the table saw me looking and asked me "not to pick it up, because it could break." So, I gazed at it for a bit. My Mom and Dad came over to see what I was up to and saw it too. Mom says, "OH LOOK, it's an ash tray golfer!" We then commented on how the little golfer kinna looked like Grampa! Haaaa! This was getting tough, because inside I was feeling something that was TOTALLY destroying my original plans, BIG time!
I recall asking my Mom If I had enough money to buy this, and still some for toys. I recall her looking at the old man selling this thing and asking what he wanted for it. He said, "eight bucks! It’s from the 50's and an antique!" My heart sank. I said to the guy...I have 5 dollars! He didn't hesitate a moment...and said that since I was so fascinated by this, 5 dollars would do just fine! He wrapped it in a wrinkled brown bag and I was headed off. It was well into the day by now, and we needed to get back to my Grandparents house before dinner time. As I passed all the tables of toys, I saw all the cool things I could have had for my own. I can't even describe the emotions...it was like stuff I had never felt. I was terribly disappointed, yet at the same time...excited? Happy? I couldn't stop thinking about my Grampa and how this statue was like it was MADE just for him! Golfing, and a place to hold his pipe on a giant golf ball! Grampa's favorite things! I had to get this! It was the right thing to do. Still...really hurt to walk away with none of the treasures I was hoping for.
When we got back to the house, Grampa was sitting in his big avocado green "La-Z-Boy" chair, kind of still half asleep from his afternoon snooze. I walked up to him, and handed him the wrinkled brown bag, and just said, "Here Grampa, this is for you." He pushed the lever of his chair forward to sit up and opened the bag. To this day, I can still hear his deep raspy laugh! I explained that I saw it and thought it was perfect for him and his pipe! I told him I spent his five dollars on it. Yah know, the expression and the feeling of his arms hugging my shoulders made me feel like I had bought a MILLION plastic army men! A BILLION gas powered air planes and a BIG yellow boomerang that could circle the moon and back!! But it was not the "things" at all anymore. I made a sacrifice. It hurt to do it, too! I may have been only 9, but somehow, I really did appreciate all my Grampa did for me. All he sacrificed too. I gave back...and nothing felt better in my entire life.
I am including a photo here of the very golfer ceramic ash tray I got Grampa many, many decades ago. On it, one of my Grampa's pipes. He kept this goofy little thing by his avocado green "La-Z-Boy" chair till the day he passed away when I was 19. My Grandmother gave it to me years later. Today, I look at it and smile...and it keeps me reminded of the lesson Grampa taught his wide eyed little Grandson. To love...to truly love is to know the sweetness that soothes the pain of real sacrifice.
All magic wishes, ~~~ THOR