On Facebook, I saw Nando post “Who do you owe in life who you can never pay back?” and it stuck in my head. Responses varied, from parents to grandparents.. I thought about former teachers, and people who have influenced me. I wondered who do I pick? There have been many, and mostly I owe them because they gave without ever seeking repayment. The sexiest giving there is.
With that still stuck in my brain… who do I owe?.. I came across an old faded picture of my grandfather. Those pictures that are on paper.. the old fashioned kind in a old fashioned frame (seriously the frame is from 1960 or something).
They say the men you grew up knowing help shape your choices in men when you grow up. In such, I owe my grandfathers and father for the choices I’ve made (not all the choices but they have shaped what I find attractive).
My mother’s father (from the pic previously mentioned – I’d use names to help differentiate but both grandfathers had the same first name) is the one grandparent that I felt the closest to.. he is also the one that passed away first.
He was amazing. He grew up dirt poor on a farm, when farms were real farms. Pigs, cows, dairy cows, chickens, and crops.. rather than the specialized farms we have today. He was born during the time when polio was running rampant and it (and some other diseases) managed to take half of his siblings in death before they reached puberty. He still ended up with quite a few siblings as well.. birth control wasn’t what it is today and farms back then needed the kids to help out.
He managed to work hard and go to college. On his death bed, he was asking about my college experience and with a glint in his eye he hinted that he might have been a bit of a playboy. My first and only glimpse of this side of him. I wish we’d had more time.
He then became a school teacher where he met my grandmother who was one of his students. They courted, and he married her. (Knowing my grandmother, her family wouldn’t have made this easy.) He then bought some land and farmed it. Then sold it when land prices were high and made a fortune. He went back to school and became a licensed electrician. He loved learning and was always resourceful. He could fix anything.
His personality though was what I most take away from him when seeking a mate. He was the life of the party (without alcohol – my grandmother was an extreme fundamental christian I highly doubt my grandfather drank any alcohol ever). Always cracking jokes and bringing smiles onto people’s faces. He was a wiz with kids and adults alike. He was funny and kind to everyone. And everyone .. and I do mean everyone.. loved him.
Then there is my father’s father. To be honest, I didn’t like him much. He was gruff and didn’t seem to like kids (or at least the girl ones). I think he may have been a little sexist. However, he was married to the most spunky and amazing woman I’ve ever met, my grandmother. (She was my second favorite grandparent, and my first favorite female role model.)
He grew up with a hard life. His father passed away when he was in 8th grade and he had to quit school to support his mother and sisters and younger brother. Which he did until they all finished High School and for a few years after that. He met my grandmother who refused to let him keep supporting his able-bodied siblings, especially his younger brother. Her family refused to recognize my grandfather because he wasn’t catholic. Thus their marriage was not supported by either family.
It didn’t help any that my grandmother was Czech and thus socially considered dirt at that time. Due to that, (I believe this was his reasoning) she was not allowed to speak Czech even to her family members on the phone or teach their children the Czech language. Our family lost nearly all of that culture’s influence due to my grandfather’s insistence.
But every Christmas, during our family Christmas gatherings as we’d all finish unwrapping our Christmas gifts, he’d present her with a nice romantic gift of some kind. Usually it was with a loving sappy note as well. On their 50th Christmas as a married couple, he presented her with a massive diamond ring. One he’d promised to get her from his first proposal 50 years prior.
He always walked around as if he clearly wore the pants in the family, but he could never help but give in to my grandmother when she really wanted something or scolded him for something. There was never any doubt that he did love her.
In his last years after she’d passed away and no longer covered for him, I learned more about him and what it might have been like for her to live with him. It couldn’t have been easy, but nevertheless.. what I take away from him is that a man should always want to win my affections… even after 50 years.
Now to my father.. this is more difficult. My father is equally an influence of what I don’t want and what I do want.
In many ways, my father was a pansy most of my growing up years. He let my mother run all over him. It didn’t help any that she seemed smarter than him 80% of the time, so the battles between them weren’t always on fair ground. She is very quick-witted and quick-tongued. My father takes his time to speak and speaks slowly.
When I saw my father outside of home, he was smart and people liked him. However, in work as well, he seemed rather submissive and not fighting as well for position.
He would however help anyone out with pretty much anything. If you needed a favor, my father would be there. He has a generosity of spirit in that way.
He also never spoke badly of my mother. Even though they fought often, and she often made him look incompetent (naturally, not intentionally I don’t think), he never spoke ill of her that I ever heard. The only ill words I ever heard him say about her was when I was in middle school or junior high, and he sat us kids down to apologize to us for their fighting. He started to complain that she worked too much, and came home often too tired. It was obvious from all of their fights that he didn’t want to her work. (But my mom is not one to sit still. We kids had a love-hate affair with her working. When she worked, she was irritable at home when she was there. When she didn’t work, she had too much time to nit-pick and nag us kids and make us do chores.)
What I take from my father is that generosity, love, and perseverance, but I hope to find a man with a little more backbone and willingness to be honest with what he needs.. even if it means telling me off.
So there are the men that I owe for showing me what to look for in a man.