We grew up listening to the stories my great-grandfather told. His name was Paul, but we all called him Grand-Daddy. He was a man of incredible character.
When he was 86, we arrived at his house as he was leaving. He told us to make ourselves at home, he needed to deliver cheese to the elderly.
At 90, he was up on his roof when my dad asked him what he was doing. “Replacing the roof!” Grand-Daddy hollered down to him.
My dad pointed out there wasn’t anything wrong with his roof, to which Grand-Daddy replied, “I figure it will be easier to replace it now, than ten years from now.”
He had a point.
When I was 18 and no longer lived at home, Grand-Daddy would call me every three weeks.
He’d call my grandmother, Charlotte the Great, the first week.
The second week he would call my mom, and update her on Grandma.
The third week, it was my turn to hear the news from Grandma and my mother and in turn, send my news to Grandma the following week.
I suppose in these phone calls, I gained a perspective on life that carries over into my life even still. I always listened to Grand-Daddy’s words, they were rich in wisdom.
One story that has been told to each generation is the story that has had us all rethinking drinking. It’s the story Grand-Daddy shared when he was asked why he never tasted a sip of alcohol.
At the age of 7, Grand-Daddy’s father, Jacob, had passed away and his mother, Rena, was having a hard time making ends meet.
Grand-Daddy and his brother, Mark, rode the train, getting off at every stop to sweep floors for a nickel.
Each week they’d send 50-cents back home to their mom, to help support the family.
When Grand-Daddy was 18, he had outgrown riding the train and rented a room above a saddle shop. He had a roommate, about the same age as he and they liked each other well enough.
The room had no heat. None.
I tell you this because this particular story takes place during a hard Nebraska winter. The wind was blustery and the rain pelted the ground and pinged on the roof.
It was the night his roommate had gone out drinking and passed out.
The roommate’s drinking buddies, brought him back to the small room, with not a trace of heat, above the saddle shop; his clothes soaked through from the rain and left him passed out on his bed. The hour somewhere between midnight and dawn.
With compassion, Grand-Daddy crept out from beneath his warm quilts to pull off the wet clothing from his roommate that was beginning to stiffen as it froze against his body.
Grand-Daddy gently tucked in his roommate beneath the quilts so he’d be warm.
If he had left the roommate as his friends had, the young man would have frozen to death.
Grand-Daddy never forgot that night.
It was the reason he never took a sip of alcohol.
Grand-Daddy explained that if these were the friends you had when you drink, he didn’t need to drink.