We learn so much about a person at their funeral. It's kind of unfortunate because we spend much time in our lives knowing only one color of their spectrum. My grandpa was like that. I knew him as one of the most honest, honorable men in the whole wide world. His moral compass never waivered from the direction of good. He told a cop story once from when he was on the LAPD. One of his guys came to him terribly upset. His pregnant wife discovered that he'd been having an affair, and was leaving him. I'm sure my grandpa had little sympathy when he said, "You screwed up. You deserve it."
And that was how he lived his life. He didn't screw up (at least that I know of). If it was wrong or bad, he didn't do it. If something needed to be done, he'd do it because it was the right thing to do. He spent his life doing right by his family and his community.
He remained involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The most comical role he played in the VFW was "treasurer" at the annual garage sale. He stored the cash right behind his .32. In plain sight. Nobody would steal from him because he was big and in his 80s and packing heat. He played golf and bowled with his VFW buddies, and they all called him Charlie.
Growing up, my dad often spoke of Boy Scout and Eagle Scout trips he took with my grandpa, who was the Scout Master (again, it was the right thing to do). Stories of powdered eggs and short sheeting grandpa's bed on cold nights were my favorites. At the memorial, I saw a photo of my young grandfather amid a group of young men. Taken in 1959, the boys look like they're auditioning for parts in "Stand By Me" with their tidy hair, tight white shirts, and dark jeans. I think it was a campout. Anyway, my grandfather is beaming, obviously bursting with pride in these young men. My dad is in the group, smiling a nearly identical smile. What I, and many others, didn't know was that my grandfather remained active in Scouting from the time my dad was 7 up until a few years ago, volunteering to mentor young men in the hobby of stamp and coin collecting and, likely, living a life rich in sound moral decisions. Sadly, he noticed a decline in interest in Scouting, or collecting, or both. He feared Boy Scouts of America, an organization so dedicated to molding upstanding, proud, articulate, academic, and honest men was in the decline. He didn't know whether it was where he lived or his specialty, but my dad recalled conversations where grandpa confessed it weighed heavy on his heart.
And so I looked at my boy tonight, this toddler who smiled sweetly as he overturned the cat's water dish. I wonder what his future holds. I worry about the state of the world as he grows up. I can't help but wonder how he'll learn patience amidst world full of people hell-bent on getting their needs met now! I'm compelled to compare the difference in the times of my grandfather and my son. Did the times mold my grandfather, or would he have been a man of great character in any time? Was he drawn to an organization like Boy Scouts of America because of when he lived or how he lived?
Even as I write this, I'm beginning to answer my own question. My grandfather was the man he was regardless of the time. His character is timeless. His moral compass doesn't have an expiration date. My father holds it. I pray that I hold it. Dave holds on to the moral compass handed to him by his father and his Uncle Ron. Our kids will have it. I'm sure of it.
But I want some insurance.
I've requested a copy of the photo so that my son will have something physical, a touchstone, with which he can connect with his grandfather and great-grandfather. I've already begun investigating Boy Scouts for him. He'll start when he's in first grade. I need my son to be surrounded by many people like my grandfather, my father, my husband - good, honest, humble, faithful, selfless men dedicated to improving the lives of others. I want to ensure that my son grows up and defies a selfish, needy, consuming world in favor of a life of giving, helping, and trust. It's the only way I know to make it better. I can't control what he does as an adult. However, with a little luck, he'll find an old stamp collector like Chuck who'll teach him about the 1986 commemorative stamp from Nigeria, and why he should always stand up when a lady walks in the room.