5 Lessons About Love That I Learned From My 88-Year-Old Grandfather

credit: Justin DeMarco
credit: Justin DeMarco

If there’s one thing my Grandpa Joey has it’s a lot of stories. If there’s another thing he has it’s the gift of gab. The man has lived and continues to live his life to the fullest as evidenced by his recent trip to the Panama Canal. He’s also more than willing to pass on any lessons he has learned along the way as long as anyone is interested.

As a kid fishing on The Three M’s, my grandfather’s boat named after his wife, Mary, and his granddaughters, Marisa and Maria, I’d watch his every move. The way he handled the boat, baited a hook, and eventually removed the fish from the hook when we caught one. He’d talk and I’d listen, but I also made sure to observe. By watching the way he treated his late wife of 62 years and treats his daughter and son, as well as their spouses, his grandchildren, and all of his friends and family, I’ve been lucky enough to learn about love from a member of The Greatest Generation.

1. Value And Appreciate People While They’re Alive And Healthy.

Towards the end of her life, my grandma had breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and struggled with dementia. She would repeat things, forget people’s names, and couldn’t remember her plans for the day that were just told to her only minutes ago. Instead of yelling, my grandpa would calmly tell my grandma the same things over and over, but each time talking as if it was the first. He didn’t want to embarrass or insult her. So, when they would go to Costco and she wanted to buy shampoo and conditioner, he’d buy it. It didn’t matter that they already had a year’s supply in their basement. The one time he challenged her and said they didn’t need the products she asked for, she became defeated and said, “You never let me get what I want.” From that point on, instead of fighting her and saying, “No, Mary! We already have enough,” he’d say sure and then stack the products in the basement when he arrived home. It was the difference between seeing her smile or seeing her upset. My grandpa always did anything in his power to make my grandma smile.

When my family insisted my grandma go to hospice when the cancer had become too much for her body to handle, my grandfather refused and said that she wouldn’t leave his side. He knew her biggest fear was being forced to leave her own house. Before she passed away from the cancer that took her life, my grandma told my grandpa, “God was good to me, Joe. He gave me you.” So, when people ask my grandpa if he’s sad without my grandma, you bet he is, but he has no regrets. He did everything he could do while she was alive.

2. What You Do For One, Do For The Other.

Everything always has to be even-steven with my grandpa. It doesn’t matter if it’s his daughter, son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, or three grandchildren, we all know that we’re equally loved. My grandpa doesn’t play favorites, even if I still think he likes my sister the best…

Just to give you an idea of my grandpa practicing what he preaches, when he bought my youngest cousin an iPad, he made sure to buy my sister a jacket she wanted, and made a donation to the “Justin Fund” in the dollar amount that the iPad and jacket cost. We all told him it wasn’t necessary and that he’s always generous with all of us, but he said: “What I do for one, I do for the other.”

3. Have Another Cup Of Coffee Or Five More.

No, my grandfather doesn’t own Starbucks stock. It’s his way of staying in the moment and making it last as long as possible. Whenever I go out to lunch or dinner with my grandpa, I make sure to budget extra time. It’s not that he moves slowly, but rather that he wants to spend as much time with his family when he can. I’ve learned that having another cup of coffee has nothing to do with the caffeine input, but rather appreciating the company you’re with and being with them for as long as possible.

4. Little Gestures Are BIG.

One of my grandpa’s favorite ways to pass time in between doctor’s appointments is by visiting dollar stores. He always scouts out the entire store first and then buys practical gifts for everyone in our family. One time he even remembered that my dad couldn’t read a broken air pressure gauge at a gas station and bought my dad, his son-in-law, an air pressure gauge for his car tires so he’d never have that issue again. It’s my grandpa’s way of reaffirming how much he loves and cares about us, knows our interests and hobbies, and thinks about us every day.

5. The Importance Of Showing Up.

Before every middle school kid had a cell phone, there were payphones. And if I stayed late at school and needed a ride home and couldn’t track my mom or dad down at work, I never worried. I’d call Joey and he’d leave his house immediately, pick me up, and take me home. He never questioned if I tried my parents first or if anyone else could take me, he let me know he would be there and I didn’t have to worry.

My grandpa and grandma also made sure to attend every science fair my cousin participated in, art show my sister showed work at, and sporting event I competed in. In fact, when one of my baseball coaches handed out hats to all of the players, he walked over to my grandpa and handed him a hat. “Here you go, Joey,” my coach said. “You’re an unofficial coach so you should at least have a hat.” Joey genuinely takes an interest in whatever his grandchildren are doing and wants to make sure he plays a big part in our lives. And that’s why we know that no matter what we can always count on Joey.

Joey doesn’t just do things because he has to, he does things because they come from his heart and he wants to. And I believe that’s what makes all of the difference. It’s the reason why everyone loves him so much. Joey understands the greatest gift of all: to love and be loved in return. TC mark

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Image Credit: credit: Justin DeMarco

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