Living legacy

I always dreaded entering my grandparents’ house. It smellled like mothballs and the bland tea my grandmother obsessed over. Always scared of breaking one of the blue and white antiques that had been sent from a distant relative, I was uncomfortable exploring all of the rooms. I spent the entire car ride to the house complaining about wanting to play in my backyard or continuing crafts in my kitchen. I never wanted to visit, but the second I would walk through the front door, I felt content.

The small house was my safe haven, and it was obvious that my grandparents wanted to keep it that way. They made sure to keep our artwork where we could see it and organized our toys. My sisters would watch TV with my grandma or wait for her to make them a snack in the kitchen, but I always gravitated towards my grandpa.

Sitting on the floor while playing with shiny toy cars was my favorite thing to do with Grandpa. My favorite memory of our time together will always be him singing songs he learned in the military to make me smile. He had a never ending desire to spend time with family and make his grandkids smile. He made everyone around him feel loved no matter the situation.

Whether he was making up a tale about spooky monsters that turned out to be friendly or experiences of his own with his family in New York or his visits to other countries, he had the ability to grab the attention of everybody in the room. He was my favorite storyteller.

He created an environment where it felt like anything could be real. I would try to mimic his stories and create ones even better than he told, and he would always act like it was the most amazing tale he had ever heard. Every moment that I got to spend time with my grandpa, my imagination grew stronger. From him, I learned the ability to find a happy ending.

Our family was connected by his love for all of us. Conflicts on how to raise three young girls, tension over our odd personalities and day-to-day struggles seemed so minuscule compared to all of the kindness he showed us. When my dad worked a night shift and my mom was exhausted from work and kids, my grandpa would come sit with me and my sisters until we all fell asleep. He would talk to us and watch golf on TV until our eyes began to shut and we were fast asleep. He would always help around the house and spend holidays lending a hand to whoever needed one. He was my best friend.

When I was in third grade, he died. It wasn’t a surprise — he had been sick for quite some time. Dealing with the loss wasn’t easy. I became closed off and stopped doing all the things that he taught me to love so much. Sometimes my mom would drive by my grandparent’s house as a way to remember them, but it never seemed to fill the hole in our hearts. He taught us so many life lessons. I found my creativity, improved my storytelling and sometimes I still catch myself humming the songs he used to sing.

I am, and my family is, his legacy. We are the lasting proof of the amazing person he was and of the impact he had on everyone around him. I’d like to think he would be very proud of who I am today.

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Losing one of the most important people in my life was hard, but it was easier when I considered the parts of him that I would always carry with me. Having such a meaningful bond with such an influential person has shaped my personality and continues to help me grow as an individual.

I didn’t have much time with my grandpa, but when I look back at it, every second was precious. I learned about myself and where I come from. I still learn from my time with him even if he’s no longer here to teach me.