My grand pop was a WW2 veteran, a soft hearted man, with a hard exterior.
He worked 3 jobs when he returned home from the war to feed his family. He was able to in that short time amount 500k in cash money in the 70’s. The equivalent of 2.5 million today. He survived 3 tours in WW2 on the front lines, first as infantry then as MP (military police).
He also was an avid boxer in the Army in which he got pretty good. (Where I got my hands from) He was the type of man who would cry for his family, and knock out a guy with a 3 punch combo at 55 who was half his age for putting his hands on him.
Tell you a little story, I remember it like yesterday:
I was about 6 years old, had on a baby blue short set, he wore blue khakis and a white linen shirt with a blue hat and loafers. He always dressed impeccably, a man of 5 foot 10, 190 pounds even in his later years all solid muscle, with hands that could crush a tomato can easily.
We would wake up early since I lived on top of him in the apartment with my mom and dad (right before they divorced).
Waking up to the smell of fresh brewed coffee, and his favorite, soft boiled eggs with bacon made on a cast iron griddle. Back then thats what everyone cooked with. Cast iron was so heavy it took 2 hands to get it to the stove top. With the old fashioned stainless steel percolator coffee brewer making it’s usual drip drip sound.
Those mornings were special to me. I got to spend time with him as the sun shone through the alley window, bouncing off the flat white stucco of the house next door into our slatted glass windows. The one’s with the cranks to open and close them.
Those mornings were my education.
Little did I know those mornings would teach me lessons in life that would carry over for the rest of my life.
After breakfast, setting off, fishing poles in hand packing the car, we would get into his old blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, with blue leather interior and set off for the bay. Sheepshead bay that is. Anyone who is from Brooklyn in the late 70’s early 80’s knows how clean and how beautiful the bay was then. It has gone through a changing period somewhat these days but it still very nice. Right across from the landmark Lundy’s was a tackle and bait shop and a Dunkin Donuts. We would grab a donut and park the car.
Getting out to buy some worms, and maybe some bunker at that local tackle shop was the highlight of the morning. After grabbing our tackle we would walk.
There is a bridge that cuts across the bay, about 300 feet from that position, you can walk over it to get to the other side. Our favorite spot. This spot was right outside the mouth of the second entrance / exit of Kingsborough Community College. I would attend something of 15 years later.
It was picture perfect, you could see over the pale blue bars for miles of water, sun glinting and shining up off the salt water. Salt in the air, and the smell of the sea, fish smell from our bait.
Grandpa would always pack a little lunch. It was here. That I would get the most needed lessons in my life. It was here, that the world seemed so expansive and filled with possibilities. It was here that life was so simple yet so miraculous. I don’t think in my life I ever felt that amount of peace as an adult.
He used to tell me “Grandpa”. He used to call me that, why I still don’t know but that was my nickname when he addressed me.
“Grandpa, be careful of the people you keep around. Be careful of people who pretend they are something they are not. For if you lay with the devil you wake up in hell. “
He would go on to say, “you are who you stay with.”
“It is important in life to know the people you stay with as they will represent you. Don’t stay with people for status, for money, because they have something you want, or can better you. Stay with them because you love them, you respect them and you honor them.” Words of wisdom that are priceless.
“But make sure you know them before you trust them, there are a lot of people in the world that will put on a fake mask to make you think they are something or someone they are not because you may have something they want.”
He said baiting the hook with a blood worm. They were always very creepy to me with all of their feet.
“Be careful who you befriend, and who represents you because they could make or break you.”
Sipping from a thermos full of coffee, green steel with a polished top. Closing the lid he smiled. The same smile I possess all these years later.
“You could be anything you want in life Grandpa. Anything. All you have to do is believe it, see it, and go get it. Never let anyone tell you you can not do something.” He said. “What do you want to be?” I thought for a second and quickly yelp “I want to be an astronaut!, I want to fly in space!” He remarked “Then be that. But just remember, people will bring you up or they will bring you down, make sure you guard who your closest friends are and take notice of their actions, their morals, and behaviors, as that will overtime dictate who you become, OR who you are perceived as.”
No sooner a fish tugged on the line, as I reeled it up my grandfather fished his pocket knife out and needle nose pliers to fish the hook from a little sunny’s mouth he said
“Remember grandpa, you lay with the devil you wake up in hell. Do you understand?” I said “I do” not really understanding the full meaning of what he was saying but knowing in my heart it had to be correct.
After all here is a man who fought for his country, gave his all, attacked by a wild boar and gun jammed had to kill it with his bayonet, saw the worst of the worst life has to offer and still, everyday, smiled and enjoyed life.
It took many years later to understand those lessons in life.
1) Who you surround yourself with becomes who you ARE!
2) You can be anything in life you want to be but mind your surroundings at all costs.
Not a day goes by I don’t miss him.
Towards the end of his life I live with a regret that I could have certainly been there more for him in his last days as he was there for me in my first days. Maybe one day I will get to make that right, maybe not. I do hope to inspire others to not make the same mistake, if you have family you love or friends you love, spend as much time as you can with them. Shed the people of status mongering, the attention whores, the people who want something from you but don’t want to give back, the people who take, who judge, shed those people and use that energy on the people that MATTER!
If you like this post share it and comment below.