It’s possible I’m at the point of being so overtired I’ve become punch drunk and my words may come out gibberish, or that I may upset the powers that be in upper management where I work, but whatever the outcome I’m so grateful for being here. It’s been too long since I’ve written anything for me.
Thanksgiving’s Bitter Pill
There is a price to pay for blogging full time for a deal site. I’ve been lost in the black hole called Black Friday for the last couple of months and everything in my life is so far out of balance it’s on the verge of becoming comical. Building up the momentum to carry our social media into the busiest shopping weekend of the year (Black Friday – Cyber Monday) is no small feat. I’ve worked so much this past month that I’d be horrified to know exactly how much.
We had Thanksgiving at home this year, just the 5 of us because I had to work. While tweeting away at the dinner table between bites of turkey and stuffing, I felt sad and tried not to be resentful at the ridiculousness of the early Black Friday hype. Dozens of stores opened early on Thanksgiving day with doorbuster deals for those who ditched the dishes and their families for a retail rendezvous.
I tried not to think about it, reminding myself that I was earning an income for our family and I told myself dozens of times that there was an end to the social media madness. I resigned myself to the logic that I’d see the family at Christmas anyway, but the nagging feeling I had about skipping Thanksgiving wouldn’t go away.
My defining moment happend when grandpa died unexpectedly on the Saturday morning after Black Friday. I got the call at 9:30 am while I was in the midst of writing my second blog post of the morning. I flew into a tailspin of tears and anger when it hit me that my last chance to see him would have been Thanksgiving. I’d blown it. I had made the wrong choice and would never get that chance to make it right again. No mulligans this time.
Priorities in Check
My grandpa was a practical, to the point kind of guy. Having lived on his own from the early age of 12, family was always a priority for him. His mom took his little brother and moved to California, leaving my young grandpa behind with friends. We believe she planned to send for him after she got settled, but whether she did or not, he never went. Instead he worked on the farm to earn room and board from the family who took him in. I’m sure that moment his mom left him, was a life defining moment, when he chose to put family first, no matter what.
He wasn’t a gushy lovey-dovey kind of guy, but there was no doubt how much he loved us all. It didn’t matter if it was one of my tennis matches, my sister’s basketball games or one of my daughters’ ballet recitals, Grandpa and Grandma were there for every one of our milestones, big or small. He wore his World’s Greatest Grandpa sweatshirts proudly and loved showing us off around town at his favorite restaurants or the local hardware store!
We spent a decade of vacations together, our big crazy family, crammed in a 900 square foot cabin…the men and older kids in tents outside, the women and babies sharing beds inside. Cocktail hour always roused Grandpa into story telling mode, with little lessons hidden in stories of funny things that happend over the years when our dad’s were little.
His stories, like our vacations, never lasted long enough. I’d sit and listen to them forever if I could.
A couple of weeks ago we stopped by my Grandma and Grandpa’s house after church and spent some time just hanging out and having fun. It was a long over-due visit that I’m so grateful for today because it gave us some time to spend with Grandpa and a chance for him to see the kids. I didn’t know it would be the last time I saw him.
Is there death without regrets? I’m sure there isn’t. We will always want one more visit, one more story, one more hug.
I know my Grandpa loved me and he knew I love him as well. I’m sure he understood the pressures of work and the financial stress of raising a family, that led me to choose work instead of sitting next to him at dinner on Thanksgiving. Although I’m not so sure he would have made the same choice I did.
It’s not about working on a holiday that I struggle with. My dad was a pilot who was gone many a Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthday. It would have felt differently to me if the work I was doing made a difference for someone else, like my dad working on Thanksgiving made it possible for other families to be together. I guess I made a difference for my own family, and possibly I helped some people save money while giving our economy a little boost.
Our Power to Choose
There are seven banners that hang in the cafeteria outside my office, written on them the one-word values that we practice to keep us strong, driven, committed, amused, alive, human, and productive as people and a company. One of the values is balance; a value I need to focus on more.
My grandpa was one of the hardest workers I know. He and my grandma owned a farm with my grandma’s brother and sister-in-law, working at it on evenings and weekends alongside his career, and in his retirement he built a business with his sons.
Work isn’t what life’s all about. Spending time with loved ones is. Grandpa’s secret was that he figured out how to blend them both together.
“Do what you’ve gotta to do what you wanna” is a motto from a college friend that my husband and I adopted for our own. I realize now that I’ve been stuck in the “do what you’ve gotta” rut for too long.
I’ve learned my lesson and will choose from now on to take the pressures of performance at work with a grain of salt. And I will choose to find ways to blend work into my family life instead of my family life into my work.
In honor of you, Grandpa:
- Thank you for buying us a color TV when I was little so I would know Big Bird was yellow.
- Thank you for bringing me to the Benny Goodman concert when I was learning to play the clarinet. I think of you and Grandma every time I hear jazz music.
- Thank you for turning your home into a summer camp for my sister and me ever year, complete with tennis court, apple orchard, tractor rides and cook outs.
- Thank you for driving the sag wagon on our family bike rides to the next town for breakfast.
- Thank you for teaching me that real men cook. I loved seeing you in an apron cooking up something yummy in the kitchen or outdoor fireplace. The 4th of July picnic’s will always be a favorite of mine. Your house always smelled like freshly baked bread and toast in the morning on your pull out cutting board in the kitchen could never be topped.
- Thank you for my first driving lessons on your John Deere tractor.
- Thank you for my first bike and my first car.
- Thank you for helping us move from third floor apartment to third floor apartment.
- Thank you for all the $50 bills hidden in the tree at Christmas. No matter how many times I spent it and replaced it throughout the year, I was thankful for you every time I needed cash and remembered I had it with me.
- Thank you for driving my brand new husband and me in your Model A from the church to our wedding reception.
- Thank you for teaching me how to make orange glory rolls when I was pregnant and had a craving for them I couldn’t kick.
- Thank you for being there the nights all three of my children were born, no matter how far the drive or how horrible the weather.
- Thank you for the amazing house warming gift you gave us that helped us buy appliances, a lawn mower and turn that yucky little bungalow into a beautiful home.
- Thank you for holding my sweet little girl while she cried over leaving Wes’ mom for her trip back to Arizona.
- Thank you for always explaining how things worked.
- Thank you for all the toasty warm fires.
- Thank you for coming with us to the Cubs game a few years back, riding on the L and sitting in the bleachers with you and Grandma was so much fun!
- Thank you for being a family guy and for setting the example of a loving marriage your whole life. We saw those pecks for Grandma when you didn’t think we were looking.
- Thank you for all the stories, all the memories and all the fun we had with you.
There are a million more things to thank you for. You were a great grandpa, not because of your lineage, but because of the man you were. I’m going to forever miss seeing you in your red Stormy Kromer hat stomping the snow off your boots as you come in the back door. We’ll keep the cocktail hour tradition going complete with your dip and martini’s.
Thank you for the lessons you’re still teaching me, even from Heaven. I promise we will take good care of Grandma for you!
I love you and miss you,