On Saturday we held a celebration of life for my grandpa, Duane Howard Cushman Jr., who passed on April 11th of this year. In honor of him, we ate a Thanksgiving meal (turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, stuffing, fruit salad, etc., etc.) and simply enjoyed each other’s company – as my grandpa had done more often than not. I had written a few words to share with the group on Saturday, but when the time came I suddenly felt they were more appropriate for a later day and in a different format. Below are those words.
To many of us, my grandpa was a brother, a friend, and a grandfather. But to at least two of us (probably more), he was a father.
In many ways he was a father figure, but I’ve had several of those. They come and go depending on where I am, when I’m there, and what I’m doing: a baseball coach, a teacher, or simply a friend’s dad. When you grow up without ever knowing your own father, you tend to borrow father figures from pretty much anyone, anywhere. What makes my grandpa more than a father figure is that I didn’t choose him; he chose me.
Father figures can be helpful, instructive, and a wise guidance. But it is never expected of any of them to stick around when things get difficult – like when you’re scared in the middle of the night because of a bad dream, sad because your best friend just moved away, feeling homesick after being away at college a few weeks, or when you aren’t sure of what you want to do after graduation. Yes, in many ways my grandpa filled the void of an actual father despite knowing just how much it would cost him financially, emotionally, and physically – and, who knows, maybe even spiritually.
It is because of my grandpa that I know how to write a check and balance my checkbook; that I know how to drive a car; that I know how to keep working until the job gets done; that I know when and how to say “I’m sorry” when I’ve done something wrong and “Thank you” when someone (anyone) has helped me; that I know how to beat just about anyone – yes, Jamie and Aunt Linda, just about anyone – at cribbage; that I know how to be friendly and kind to people I might meet despite what they look like or how they vote; that I know putting aside my own agenda to help someone else is something I should do frequently; and that I know true family means sticking together when no one else will.
Grandpa did more than I ever expected or asked of any father figure and it is because of him that I even had a fighting chance at a life well lived. Celebrating his life, to me, is celebrating the life of an adoptive father who just so happened to be my grandfather.
Thank you to everyone who could make the trip for coming to Saturday’s gathering; my Grandpa would appreciate and enjoy your presence… mostly the food’s presence, but yours as well. And to those who couldn’t make it, my Grandpa would have missed your presence… just like he missed the presence of the forgotten apple pie last Christmas Eve…
If anyone has any stories about my grandpa that they would like to share, send me a Facebook message or an email and I would be happy to read them.