August by birth, Gus in life, my grandfather was an interesting man. He was only alive and in my life for what seems to me now as a brief pause, a short stay; but that time period was definitely a most impactful one.
He often described his childhood/boyhood as a time of hardship, a time of great challenge, where he had to use both his brain and his braun to make it through each and every day. With jobs before and after school, and school not the focused priority that is seen in students and parents of today, I listened to his stories and imagined the life of a youth with more responsibilities than I could ever imagine.
Conversely, he described his manhood as nothing shy of glorious, as a time of great adventure, still using his brain and braun to make it through each and every day, but in a different more creative, fun-filled, devil-may-care way. I listened intently as he regaled stories of danger, pride, cleverness, handwork, risk, and exciting uncertainty in a world of change. He was fetching in looks and ingenious in nature. And he was unusual . . . in ways difficult to pinpoint, best described by me as a grandfather of many mysteries. He seemed to often times walk the fence and teeter between that which was pure and good and that which was in a more gray area.
His unwritten biography of today contains a plethora of stories detailing escapades with individuals from shady backgrounds, from moments of both average and dangerous shenanigans, from times of walking on the ethical border and times of not. There were moments told when he escaped death, found fortunes, relied on lopsided handshake agreements, bet against the house and lost, and settled a variety of scores. With decades having passed since his death, and even more decades having passed since the origin of the most exciting of adventures, I find it difficult to decipher between the actual truth and the fond folklore nature of the memories we share about Grandpa Gus.
Throughout all these cloudy, misty, and foggy memories that now make up the ever-so-exciting version of his life story, however, there is one that is crystal clear for me. It was a quick moment that he and I shared with little fanfare at the time. There was no particular detailed or dramatic buildup before it and very little following. It was a granddad/granddaughter moment that happened on a sunny autumn day following a quiet, uneventful visit between the two of us. I never expected to create a memory at that time, but . . . we did.
From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, he leaned towards me and told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”
At that time, I was starting my own adventures and was clearly in a rush to be whoever I was going to be and do whatever I was going to do. I must have been on a visible mission to get to wherever I was going as quickly as possible, as it was so very obvious to him. I wanted to work, to play, to find love, raise a family, create my own fortune, and figure out how to walk my own ethical line. I wanted shenanigans and escapades, and excitement and crazy-funny moments that would eventually create folklore for me.
I had stopped by to see him as I was coming and going from one activity to another. He, on the other hand, was unable to come and go any longer. His movements were limited to those of a man reaching the end of his time – a man who knew he had reached that moment – a man who was no longer rushing, but rather waiting.
And he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”
I often think of that moment, the time he uttered such a short and simple phrase – that left me with oh-so-very-much to consider.
Am I always in a hurry? Do I stop and appreciate the ‘now’ as much as I should? What life pace is the best? Who determines the speed and how is it determined? Is there something intrinsically better about the slow over the quick? And for goodness sakes, how in the heck do I slow life down?
It wasn’t until recently that I think – and I am still not sure, just sayin’ – that I understand a little about what he was trying to tell me. It is not that I haven’t pondered those words over and over and over for a very long time. I have. It is more that I have finally reached a point in my life that they make much more sense to me.
From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, I held his hand and he mine. His was dark and wrinkled, mine not so. His grasp was faint and slight, mine not so. I looked at face and he gazed at me with tears wallowing in his eyes. His life was near its end . . . in the home stretch, and I knew he wanted so much to tell me that I needed to enjoy every moment I possibly could throughout my life, that I needed to work to be all that I could be while appreciating everything that would occur in my story, and that I needed to stop and smell the flowers along the way for each step of life is more fabulous than the last. Finally, he needed to know that I understood him perfectly and permanently.
And in a whispery voice that signaled both age and wisdom, in a barely audible tone, he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”
And I understand.