|Me, Karen and my grandfather at our graduation.|
That was cool.
I remember standing with Karen, the closest friend I made at Cal Poly, right before our graduation ceremony and smiling as we looked up into the audience because we could see our family members were sitting next to each other and appeared to be chatting.
After learning they had indeed realized their connection and learned all about each other’s Midwest roots, I remember feeling proud of my grandfather and his ability to talk to anyone about anything. Although a highly educated man who had visited every continent and earned two university degrees, he was surprisingly down-to-earth.
“The people who talk the most about a subject usually know the least about it,” he would say. And though he usually knew the most about every subject of conversation in nearly every room he was in, I never knew him to brag or monopolize the conversation. Instead, he talked about whatever others wanted to talk about: birds and science, diving and travel, opera and ice skating, or just women and drinking.
To make sure I had the same educational opportunities as he and my mother had, he not only helped pay for my college tuition, but set up an internship for me in South America through his professional connections in Chile.
His main career had been as a flight steward for Pan American World Airways, but earlier he had been hired as a professional ice skater by Sonja Henie (which is how he met my grandmother), and later helped lead cruises to Antarctica from Tierra del Fuego, serving as an expert on the birds and mammals passengers could see on their journeys.
And when I completed that university degree he gave me a car, which of course was a Ford. Since he grew up just outside Detroit, Mich., the home of Ford Motors, he only bought cars made by that company. (That car allowed Karen and I to take a road trip to celebrate our graduation, and for me to enjoy a last fun New Year’s Eve with my sister.)
And while I certainly appreciated that car and everything else he did for me (including having my mother's binoculars repaired after her crash), my favorite gift from him just might be this simple trick he taught me when I was a kid, which still makes me smile every time: