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01/17/11 10:54 - 24.ºF - ID#53452

Happy Birthday Grandpa

Well - it's that time of year again -

Dear Grandpa,

It's your birthday! If you were here with us I'd have you go with me to Blue Monk, the place where I hang out when I'm home from work trips. I'd joke about sharing a beer with you then have one of my friends behind the bar give you a soda. I might even have shared a dessert with you, knowing grandma would go ape over the thought. (It would have been our secret). You'd probably tell me I'm spending too much money on beer and you'd be right! The girls would think you're a darling. I'd introduce you to friends who didn't meet you and I'd do it with pride, knowing inside that anything good about me came from you and grandma. I wish my friends could press flesh with you - the friends who did know you tell me all the time how much they adored you and still adore grandma now.

I'd ask you advice about my typical work and life problems, but I probably wouldn't tell you everything because when you were around you internalized my problems. I remember when I graduated and had a hard time finding a job - I sat at your kitchen table with tears in my eyes and only later did I find out that you didn't get to sleep that night... it was hard for you to watch me be so upset.

This past year was incredibly hard on me. If you were here you'd have seen me suffer, so in that sense I'm happy that you are only around in spirit. I have dealt with it by reminding myself that you worked harder than I will ever have to in my life and as long as I look at things from a cosmic perspective I'll understand that few problems can't be overcome with determination and belief in myself... and that only the fundamental things really matter.

I wonder what you'd think of me now. You gave us a chance in life, you sacrificed your retirement to help our dad raise Jason and I. You were a gift from God. I'll live the rest of my life in amazement and disbelief over what you did for us. I will not ever live up to the sacrifice you and grandma made to make Jason and I into respectable human beings, but on the other hand I'm now old enough to understand that I'm a far worse critic of myself than you ever were. You would have never judged me as harshly as I judge myself; that is because I put immense pressure on myself to live up to your example and walk the earth in the same way that you did. I put pressure on myself to succeed because in my mind if I don't make something of myself I will have wasted what you did for us... I can't live with that. I try and I fail, and then I succeed spectacularly, then fail again, but I keep trying. I'll go on forever being motivated by the spectre of failure because in my mind the sense of failure would be deeper than most would understand. I can't allow myself to fail, I just can't.

I'll never be the man that you were but I promise you that I'll live the rest of my life trying; I don't know any other way to go on. You were a decent man, the most decent man I've ever known. I could have been born into a more affluent family but I wouldn't have traded my upbringing for anything in the world, because the fundamental person I am came from you and no amount of money on earth could buy that. The day will come when I turn 70, God willing, and on your birthday I'll still have a hard time holding back tears. I can't wait to see you again someday but until then, would you mind looking out for me?

Love,
Josh
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