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Deep down, most people have dreams - they may be forgotten, unspoken, or unrealized - but they are there. I want to help you remember and believe in them again...

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Simpler Things

Last weekend I flew to my hometown, Clarksburg WV to visit my family and spend time with my grandfather.  The family decided to throw Pap a surprise birthday party in our church gym for his 90th birthday.  Incredibly, close to 150 family members and close friends came to celebrate him!
Pap with his kids

He walked in thinking he was attending a political fundraiser only to be met by The Godfather theme song and a cheer of "SURPRISE!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"  He quickly recovered and proceeded to delight everyone with his usual humor.  My dad toasted him, our priest blessed him, children flocked to him, and everyone kissed and hugged him.  My uncle made the BEST homemade peppers and sausage in true Italian style.  My aunt and cousins who coordinated things kept things moving along... and my youngest cousin was delighted to finally get her wedding dance with Pap who was too sick to dance at her wedding this summer.

It was a beautiful celebration of life and love.
Pap with his sisters

Now I don't know about you, but I don't know of too many 90 year olds whose birthday would bring so many people together just for the chance to celebrate HIM.  He never ran for office.  He held simple jobs as a grocery clerk and car salesman for a time.  He's a devout Catholic and equally devout Democrat but was a private person overall.  He had a small garden.  So what was it about this now frail old man that would engender so much love and respect?

His heart.

Pap has ALWAYS loved loved loved children... and they've always flocked to him.  Pap adored his wife and still loves her fully though she left us five years ago.  And Pap loves to LAUGH and make everyone around him laugh!  He jokes and tells stories that make you laugh till your sides hurt.  Despite his Italian temper and stubborn streak, he can just as quickly shift into a joke with an infectious grin.

When my grandmother was sick, Pap would take a fresh loaf of Italian bread from our local bakery and a jar of his canned peppers to every doctor, nurse, aid worker in thanks for their taking such care of his beloved.  Anyone who has ever shown him a kindness - from bank tellers to handymen, from sick friends to teachers/coaches of his grandkids - got a jar of those peppers and some bread.  It wasn't payment, it was a gesture of love... followed by some sort of joke and a laugh.  He loved and appreciated people.  It was that simple.  His only request from everyone was that they return his jars to him.

He and my grandmother lived in the house he and his friends built.  She told him what she wanted and he figured out how to build it for her using nothing but the best materials.  It wasn't built quickly.  It took him months and months to gather the money and resources but it was built perfectly.  Every decision from the type of lumber to the small enclave for the Blessed Virgin's statue, the use of plaster for the walls and lights in finished closets were all detailed loving touches designed for her.  He and she LOVED their home.  It wasn't thousands of square feet but was just what they needed.  Nothing more.

Our family loved their home too.  It was a place of love, laughter, and great food!  Amazing memories.

I adore my grandparents.  There is nothing I wouldn't do for them.  It's an overflowing cup... so as I think on my own life, I am reminded of what truly matters:

It really IS the SIMPLER THINGS in life that make it sweet, joyful, fulfilling.  
My grandparents knew how to LOVE.  They spent their time not working incessantly, nor acquiring more things but rather just living and doing what they enjoyed!

My grandmother actually loved to cook and bake.  She smiled as she cleaned every inch of her home each spring and fall because it was HERS.  She lovingly washed clothes and hung them out on the clothes line to catch the breeze and then ironed anything that needed it because to her, each thing she did was an expression of love not a chore.

Together, despite loss and hardships at times, she and Pap found ways to still laugh at and with each other most every day.  They went to church every Saturday night and had Sunday spaghetti dinner ready for the family every weekend.  We didn't watch much TV with them.  We sat and talked either in the kitchen or on the porch.


The older I get, the more I realize how RIGHT and PERFECT they were... and I'm taking a lesson from them.  It's the people - family and friends - in our lives that matter.  It's the memories we create with them, whether it's learning to play golf at age six with Pap or making bread and fritis with Gram in the basement or any number of a thousand other things that matter.  WHY?  Because it's the quality TIME we spend together, share together that means everything.

It's so easy to get distracted by the "To Do's" and the desire to acquire.  But just for today, right now, take a few moments to breathe in your life - smell your child's hair, make cookies with your spouse, or call your parents just to tell them 'hi' and see how their day went?  Make plans to meet your best friend for lunch at his/her home or invite them to yours.

DECIDE to prioritize the SIMPLER Things in your life... I bet your stress goes down, you sleep better, and you'll smile more.


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