A Call For Consistency
When I think about what makes a good life, the word that comes to mind is consistency. Above all else, I want the people in my life to know that they can always count on me.
The greatest example of consistency in my life is my grandfather. Though this man takes it to the Nth degree.
Here’s what I mean:
Ed has showed up at my family’s house every Saturday morning for at least a decade (except if there is a terrible blizzard or he’s called off) to help fix things around the house. Even now, after my mom’s died, and he’s had a heart attack, he’s still doing it just to “check in.”
He gets his haircut every 26 days exactly. Why? Because he eats a half of a bagel every morning, and the bagel shop is right next to his barber. He finishes the baker’s dozen that morning, and gets his hairs cut that afternoon.
He’s read 1,500+ books since retiring in the late 90s. He has a list of all of them. He trolls me for not reading enough Jane Austen.
He gets breakfast with an old coworker every Tuesday morning, volunteers at his church every Thursday, and grocery shops every Friday. If I know the day and time, I know where he is and I can find him.
He did meal prep before it was called that. He cooks one large dinner on Sunday nights and splits it up into seven even portions to be eaten for dinner each night of the week.
He and I created an algorithm that calculates birthday money down to the cent for his grandchildren so that their gift scales from $20 to $100 at an even clip between birth and 18th birthday.
He wears the same uniform everyday—a t-shirt, hoodie, baseball cap, and jeans.
25+ years after her passing, he is still very much in love with his wife and brings her up in conversation every time I see him.
He donates $40K+ every year and pays cash for everything he needs (including big purchases like a new fridge or car).
To those who have just met him, my grandfather is a Scrooge like character. He says things like, “enough of that lovey stuff” when you try and kiss him on the cheek. When he first met my girlfriend, he said: “Wow, you look like a girl that works at McDonald’s.” What that means, and whether it was supposed to be offensive or not, I have no idea.
But like Scrooge, my grandfather’s character runs a few veins deeper than what comes out of his mouth.
He is reliably quippy, and he is fondly referred to as, “Grampy Ol’ Chubsy” in our family (although he is in great shape still). He leads a simple life by choice, one that is designed to his fancy. And when I asked him what he does on a typical day, he laughed and said: “Not very much, Katie.”
The list of things he does consistently could be justified as mere idiosyncrasies, or written off as products of retirement.
Some might scoff at his old-man existence, pity it, or call it insignificant and boring - but that doesn’t change the fact that I can count on him at any time, in any place, for any reason (although, I wish he’d get hearing aids so he could hear me ask for him). It also doesn’t change the fact that he is atypically content with how things have played out for him.
I can’t think of better evidence of a good man, of a life well lived.
So many of us (myself included) are swept up in these grand ambitions. We are overlooking the simple twenty-four hour period and the people right in front of us. We think the little things aren’t important, when in reality they may be all that’s important.
My grandfather has taught me that doing the simple things right, over and over again, has more impact than getting a few of the big things right now and again.
When he dies, which is inevitably going to happen in the next few decades (or months if he gets his way), there will likely only be a few family members and close friends at his funeral (unless he’s living a secret life as a spy, which sometimes I think he is). There won’t be some big hoopla in the newspaper about him. He will have lived and died without much of the world knowing that he did.
But so what? So what if he isn’t some big shot? So what if he never owned a computer? He showed up. He lived. He loved. He contributed to the greater good. He could be counted on every time—to help paint the house or for a joke at your own expense.
The people in his life knew who he was and cherished him for it.
We still do and always will.
Isn’t that all any of us can hope for anyways?