In These Times, I Look To My Grandfather

Today I slept in and woke up to have some coffee. On TV was the beginnings of the West Point Graduation. I decided to sit and watch it, as my grandfather is a West Point graduate and I don’t remember the last time I saw it on live on TV. West Point was such a massive part of his life and became a very large part of my life & my family’s life. I thought about him all day.

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Before beginning with how I know my Papa, you can also read about him here. 🙂 I’ve read this article 1200 times lol and it gives a lot more detail into his career than I can and talks about one of the hardest times of my life…caring for my grandma after her stroke that took a lot from her. The stroke happened the same day that my dad passed away. Both sides of my family were dealing with things I never thought we would, but we all were strong enough to overcome. In our own ways, on our own terms and timelines..we are here.

I don’t think I really have spoken about him much on here, and I thought to myself what better day than the day of West Point’s graduation to do so. He was class of 1956. He was a  kid from the South Side of Chicago, who came from nothing, who worked and worked and worked. He wrote senators, showed his hard work, his intelligence, his desire to lead and fight for this country. Finally a Senator wrote him a letter of recommendation to West Point. He fought in Vietnam, he became a Lieutenant Colonel, he became a professor. He is my Papa. And this girl is one very proud granddaughter. I do not say that enough. He taught me so much that I could write for days, but I will focus on what I learned from him that has a massive meaning for today.

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I have been thinking about him a lot lately and what he would be thinking with the state of the country. What would our conversations be? What would he be thinking? How would he be responding and taking action?  He was so well educated and so well versed, before he passed away I would go to him with any question on politics, war, religion, life, etc.  You name it, he was my very own lesson book. This lesson book taught lessons even when I didn’t want a lesson. 😉

My love of this country came from him. There were two things that my Grandfather loved more than this country and that was God and my Grandma. We all knew this, we didn’t mind coming in after the magnificent three. Words can’t describe what this man meant to our family or this country. He was willing and ready to give his life so we could remain free.

He taught me the importance of voting, told me to always vote for what I believed in. No matter what party, whoever I aligned with in beliefs..go with. I remember my very first presidential election, he and my grandma took me. They voted in their town and then drove me to vote in my jurisdiction the city over. I will never forget it. You could not wipe the look of proud off his face. I saw that same face at my tennis matches, when I got into college and when I graduated. I also saw that face when I wrote my first letter to a President. I did not agree with President Clinton on an issue, so as a grade schooler I wrote him a letter to let him know it.

My grandfather also taught me that…the importance of a respectful well written letter to those in power. I think that is what blows my mind in what I am seeing go on right now. The complete lack of respect, not just to those in office, but to those in law enforcement, to the neighbors of ours, to those who think differently than we do. My grandparents were very conservative, and very catholic. But what they were not was disrespectful.

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Before they both fell ill, I could sit down at the kitchen table with them and talk about why I chose not be my nephew’s godparent in the catholic church. Why I felt as a Christian, I didn’t agree with some of the Catholic policies. Even so when in Italy last year, I had to visit the Vatican. I felt so close to my grandparents who spent many of their “vacations’ on pilgrimages to Holy sites, who visited Rome often because of the Vatican. I still went and I still bought special pieces to give to my nephews. We could talk politics,  why I believed one candidate was better than the other. WHy I felt one way, even if I knew they felt another. The conversations didn’t always end in us agreeing on things, but we saw each others sides and respected them. That is what is missing in America today. Maybe the world, I’m not sure I can not speak for other countries.

I’ve spent the last several days thinking what would Don do? Donald was my papa’s name, Don for short, Papa to us. I know he would stand up for what he believes in, even if he gets knocked down for it, he’d stand right back up. Even if it is the unpopular opinion, he’d voice it. Even if he didn’t agree, he would be respectful. He’d talk about God. He’d write those letters to leaders he couldn’t sit down and meet with.

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How I did not know this was him still cracks me up. He’d play Santa to this day.

 

So I decided to be like him, thicken up this skin of mine, write letters, continue to be respectful, voice my beliefs and have meaningful conversations with those I don’t see eye to eye with. My hope is that others begin to act like this too.

Love,

Coco

 

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