In an effort to do so moving forward, I'm going to periodically write a piece, when it strikes me, to people who have had an impact on my life. This time, I'm going to start with my mom's dad, my Pawpaw.
My Pawpaw is the happiest man I've ever met. He practically has sunbeams coming out of his ears. His sense of humor is so big it's almost overwhelming, and his happiness is infectious. This is especially significant when you understand what he's gone through in his life. As a young boy, Pawpaw was very active. He played sports, he climbed trees, and he got into trouble like most boys do. At age twelve, Pawpaw woke up in a hospital with his right leg removed at the hip. Pawpaw had been diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a cancer that at the time had a very high mortality rate. Amputation seemed to be the only answer. It would be understandable and expected for a twelve year old boy whose ability to run and play had been stripped from him to hole up and feel sorry for himself. But whether it was him, his mother, or God - Pawpaw didn't do that. He learned how to live with one leg, and he developed a personality that was larger than life.
Later in his teen years, Pawpaw was playing baseball, and he caught a ball in the eye. This led to the removal of that eye. Did he give up? Did he think God was out to get him? Did he run and hide from the world? Wouldn't you? I think I would. But Pawpaw didn't. He married my grandmother Nini, he raised my aunts and my mother, he got three degrees related to mathematics, and he is the light of my family, the true center of it all.
|Pawpaw with baby Alli|
He has always loved to play games with us. As a family, we sit around the kitchen table and play cards, and he is always the leader, the dealer, and the joker. He always has something funny to say, has that dealer voice on, and has been known to chunk the card deck across the room when we beat him (all in fun of course). He also knows how to make a mean Coke float.
He is a gifted musician, who can play the piano and has even written his own songs, complete with lyrics. I developed a love of music from him. I didn't get his musical chops, by any stretch, but I did gain from him the ability to appreciate music, especially old country like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. I love that one of his favorite songs is a Waylon Jennings song that's called "I've Always Been Crazy" - here's a snippet of the lyrics:
I've always been crazy, and the trouble that it's put me through.
Been busted for things that I did and I didn't do.
It ain't been so easy, but I guess I shouldn't complain.
I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane.
I've never faced anything on the level that Pawpaw has. I've never looked at death and overcome it. I've never soldiered on through what could have been a severe handicap and made it into a blessing. I've never fought for anything like he has. And yet, I do not have near the positive outlook that he has. How can you face all of the things he has face and continue to live a positive, productive, happy life? That's what makes him a true inspiration to me.