It’s now been almost four years since the last time I was lucky enough to hear my Grandpa’s voice and see the twinkle in his blue eyes. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on St. Patrick’s Day of 2013, it was already the beginning of the end. The doctors optimistically hoped we would share one more Christmas with him; we didn’t even get the entire summer.
My Grandpa was a strong man. A World War II Navy vet who enlisted before he even turned 18. A businessman. He loved to fish and golf. He enjoyed daily walks and catching up with friends over a cup of coffee at the little shop on the town square. He was an avid high school basketball fan, rarely missing a home game or holiday tournament. He was kind and honest and a good friend to many. He loved his daughters and grandkids. He was the other half of my Grandma.
But he wasn’t the person I would have named if asked where I got my love of reading and writing. He was one of the most intelligent and practical people in my life, but I never saw him sit down with anything to read other than the daily newspaper. I never saw him writing anything beyond the business papers he typed up in his home office before he retired. Even our birthday cards were lovingly signed by my Grandma.
But last night, as my Mom and aunts worked to finally clean out his office in the home he and my Grandma shared for more than half a century, they found a drawer filled with letters and notes he had written. His familiar block-like handwriting filled page after page.
A few pieces were lengthy. A letter to the family of his friend who passed away, sharing what a wonderful man he was and how he would be missed. A narrative submitted to Reader’s Digest many years ago recounting a humorous story from his days as a traveling salesman.
Some, obviously from the later years of his life following the brain aneurysm that impacted his memory, were shorter snapshots of his daily life. Called Manu. He said he will call me back. He did.
As my Mom told me all about these notes today, her face lit up. She recounted how she and my aunts laughed at many of the notes; how they cried at others. I could tell, as she shared her favorites with me, that she heard his voice again as she read each one. I could hear it, too.
Writing isn’t always about creating something epic. Some writing is for an audience. Other writing is just part of our daily lives, reminders to ourselves of the things we’ve done or the things we still need to do.
No matter what, the words we write leave our imprint on the world. Each of the notes and letters that my Grandpa left behind are a piece of him. They have become a treasure for us to read and remember his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.
We don’t have to consider ourselves a writer to be one. We simply need to fill a page with the words we want to remember and the things that are important to us.
That’s what I learned from my Grandpa, the writer.
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.