As a child I would spend summers with my granddaddy in Williamsburg, Virginia. When I look back on my childhood those are some of my most cherished memories. I can’t remember things we would do on a day to day basis. I do recall we would fish on the York River some. I would drive his tractor with no real mission we were trying to accomplish. We’d ride horses. But what I do recall vividly and what is so tangible to me as I think back is the fact that my granddaddy was simply present.
My granddaddy was a WWII Veteran, a blue-collar man that worked in the shipyard after the war and sang lead in a gospel quartet. He was a flawed man I would come to later find out but to me he was larger than life and could do no wrong. His hands were huge and calloused from years and years of use but any of his 15 grandkids would tell you they were as gentle and comforting as their own mother’s. He was extremely wise but his wisdom was of the practical variety that could only come from life experiences. My cousin Andy wrote and sang at my granddaddy’s, “He’s a man of stone, determined to carry on. He lived and loved with all his life”.
For everything that my granddaddy was and still is in the lives of those he impacted, his best and most important quality was…he would listen. Whether it be his 10-year-old grandson or the 56-year-old man sitting out in front of the corner store, granddaddy was present and listening. Regardless of the issue or problem, he would listen. I remember talking with Granddaddy when I was 19-years-old. I was stationed at Ft. Lee at the time and instead of partying on the weekends with the rest of the soldiers at local motels I would drive the 45 minutes east on 64 and spend the weekend with my Granddaddy. I can’t remember what issue I was having but I’m sure at the time it was fairly significant. I talked and talked and poured out my feelings and all he did was simply listen. When I finished up with tears in my eyes my grandfather gave me a hug. That’s it. That’s all he did. I say that’s all he did but in that moment it was everything and exactly what I needed.
We’ve lost the art of listening. Everyone wants to be heard these days but no one wants to listen. We live in a society where everyone has an opinion and 10 social media accounts to blast that opinion for the whole world to “like” but no one takes the time to simply listen. What my Grandfather “said” by listening in that moment when I was 19 (and countless other times throughout my life) was louder and much more beneficial than any opinion he could offer. When he listened he “said” to me that I was infinitely important to him and he genuinely cared about what I was going through.
I try to live by the example my granddaddy set so many years ago. I want to be known as someone that cares about people and will simply listen. Especially with my kids and hopefully grandkids someday. What a legacy that would be if I could be looked at as “a man of stone, determined to carry on…who lived and loved” all of my life.