There are some times in life where you wake up, look around and think, “I have no idea what is going on.”
I’m in the middle of one of those times.
You’re not exactly depressed, but you’re definitely disoriented.
Possibly the only solace I can find has come in these little glimpses of a grandfather I never knew. Lately, family has been telling me more and more about him. Maybe they’ve talked about him all along, but I wasn’t listening.
My grandfather died before I was born. Somehow over the course of my life I’ve began to imagine him as my own little patron saint, a soldier that falls somewhere between Jesus, Bear Bryant and Clint Eastwood.
I aspire to be like him, and sometimes I even catch these glimpses of personality traits that we have in common. Given, they’re usually his bad traits like having to go to the hospital after getting so heated from an Alabama vs. Tennessee football game, but I don’t care.
I was at my parents house this weekend when my dad started telling me about Jesse B. over dinner. I tried so hard memorize the words as he said them:
“One time when I was 15 or 16, JB, that’s what I called him from the time I was 12 or so, brought home these sweatshirts He had gotten them on some kind of deal—two for something—and bought two for him and two for Mark (my uncle). They both had that frame—big, broad shoulders and a skinny waist. Mark got his from genetics, but JB earned his from climbing poles for the telephone company.
I was skinny. I was 6-foot-two and 125 pounds when I was in high school. There’s no way those sweatshirts would have fit me. Anyways, when JB came home, I asked him ‘Hey buddy’ro, where’s mine?’ Before I could get the rest of the words out of my mouth, he was out the door. Dinner was already on the table and I asked mother where he went. She said, ‘y’all come eat. He’s gone to get you some sweatshirts and he’s not coming back until he finds them.’
A few hours later, JB came home and had two sweatshirts for me. Mark put his on and it stretched over his shoulders. JB put his on and pushed the sleeves up just a little. They fit them perfectly. I put mine on and it looked like I was wearing a nightgown.
I told him, ‘You didn’t have to do that’ and he said “One time my dad came back with shoes for my three older brothers but none for me and Ruth (his baby sister). Ruth cried and I got mad. That wasn’t going to happen to my kid.”
There’s my glimpse. My tiny shot into my imaginary superhero that I aspire to become. When I sit down, lost, confused, the only definition I can find comes from the people I come from. Jesse B. and my father fix things. That’s what they do: they solve problems. They buy sweatshirts and overcome “What’s going on?” phases.
I come from these people. Somewhere, somehow, I’ve got to have that same drive and clarity to snap out of foggy situations. Now, on those lost and disoriented days, I try to itemize my problems, execute solutions, and look at a photo of a man who spent his 18th birthday in Inchon shooting at Koreans with his eyes closed so he would never have to carry the burden of knowing he killed someone.
I’ve got a long way to go, but I have a good starting point.