Friday, February 13, 2009

How to deal.

This is the tribute I read at my grandfather's funeral yesterday.

When I was 12 and generally insecure, Grandpa came to Atlanta for a visit, sat with me and my brother at the kitchen table and taught us both how to play cards, a game of Rum 500. My brother picked the game up easily, whereas I was having difficulty even shuffling the deck because of my disability. So I complained, talked about how I didn’t want to play. But Grandpa wasn’t having any of that.

He showed me how he shuffled cards. He split the deck and then put it back together. And he did it again and again. It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. And he taught me that I could do it the same way. And I did it. Then I didn’t think I was dealing the cards fast enough. He told me that people would wait, that you do what you can with what you have. That’s how you deal cards. And that’s how you deal with life.

A couple times, I asked him for mercy, told him that I would get the hang of the game if he just “let me win” a couple hands.

He laughed at me.

“Let you win? LET YOU WIN? I’m not going to let you win anything. You’ll win when you know how to play.”

This was a man who’d beat you at checkers and not let you forget about it for the rest of the day. He was one of the funniest people ever, a real character. He was tough. He taught me how to make a quick, sarcastic comment. He taught me how to be strong, how to be confident. It works with a deck of cards. And it works when you’re going through your day.

And he was right. Victories aren't given. You win when you know how to play.

Once, when I was a toddler, he put me on the tire swing behind his house, and I was nervous. And I think my parents were even a little scared. But he told me it’d be OK. He told me that all I had to do was hang on. I’m still hanging on.

Grandpa was great. He inspired this passion and strength in every member of his family. I will carry him with me – in every card game, in every joke, in every stubborn argument and in every accomplishment worth fighting for - for the rest of my life. Every one of us who loved him, who learned from him will do that.

Thank you, Grandpa.