We went to visit Grandma and Grandpa at their house in 1968. I was a happy observant 7-year old. On this visit, Grandma was upset and agitated about something and would not stop pestering Grandpa about whatever popped into her mind. It made the entire visit awkward; like walking on eggshells. Grandpa was the picture of patience and grace and endured it all with poise.
We were driving home from the visit in our Ford Country Squire station wagon after dark. The kind with the fake wood grain down the side and a luggage rack on top. I was lying in the back (unbuckled) pondering what I had witnessed that day at my grandparents’ house. I felt I had to search for a solution: some way to bring relief to poor Grandpa from all that friction. I asked calmly out of the blue, “Dad, if Grandma wears Grandpa out with all her arguing, why doesn’t he just leave?” To a seven year old, this seems like an innocent question. I wasn’t judging, I just wanted Grandpa to be happy.
Dad thought hard (can you imagine having to answer that?) and calmly replied, “Well, Grandpa comes from a generation that doesn’t leave when things get tough. You see, he made a commitment when he married Grandma ‘for better or for worse’ and he’s going to honor that. He gave his word, and to him there’s no other option but to keep it.”
That answer soaked deep into my spirit and took root there all that long drive home. It has since burrowed it’s way into my core. I admire my Dad for hitting the nail on the head with his answer. Bravo, Dad! But I especially admire my Grandpa for giving his word (at a wedding in 1929) and keeping it until the day he passed away…regardless of circumstances. Years later, his final words to Grandma were, “I love you.” How could you not look up to someone like that?
In case you don’t recognize it, we’re talking about “character.” Grandpa was brimming with it. He’s one of my heroes.
Today, 50 years later, I still meet people who seem surprised when I commit to something and stick with it. For example, at work I may commit to helping with a project and then circumstances change. I still help out on the project for the simple reason that I gave my word. People say, “Why didn’t you get out of helping on that project? You had every right to.” I just smile and say, “Because I said I would help. I gave my word.”
Thanks, Grandpa, for the tremendous example you showed us all. And for loving Grandma even when she was not very lovable. Your legacy lives on. I give my word on that!