Giving Thanks: Blog Two

thank you 2

By Troy Headrick

This is the second in a series of blogs intended to thank those who’ve played important roles in shaping my personality and values, in helping me become the person I am today.  If you’d like to read the first piece in this series, check this out.

It’s commonly thought that every human being is unique in the same way that no two snowflakes are exactly alike.  There’s some truth to this idea.  Truly, no two individuals, perhaps with the exception of some identical twins, are perfect copies of one another.  Having said this, I can see, when I look closely at the person I’ve become, that I have within me a lot of my father and mother; a considerable amount of my grandparents; and a set of core values, behaviors, and outlooks that I picked up from a few really close friends and mentors.  This means that I’m something of a human mélange.  I am who I am because of the people I’ve known, gotten close to, admired, and, in some cases, emulated.

In this one, I want to thank my maternal grandfather, a man I called “Pawpaw” up until the day he died.  Speaking of his death, I was at his bedside and watched him, on one dark and sad night, draw his very last breath.

Pawpaw was a rancher and a man of the natural world.  He made his living raising and selling livestock while living on a lovely piece of land located in Williamson County Texas.  The north side of his ranch abutted up to a beautiful vein of water called Berry’s Creek.

Because my mother and father’s marriage was incredibly unstable, I actually lived, for a considerable period of time, with my Pawpaw and Memaw, my grandmother.  Thus, I came to think of my grandfather as a second father.

I’ll never forget the first time he took me out in his pickup to roam around his vast and beautiful acreage.  Not far from the ranch house, there was a windmill and a tank where the animals came to drink.  My Pawpaw pointed at the watering hole from a distance and then stopped when we got closer.  He turned to me and said, “I think you should go over there and look at all that water.  You might find it interesting.”

I jumped out and ran toward it, the breeze ruffling my hair as I went.  As soon as I got there, I pulled off my shoes and waded into the mud which squished up between my toes.  I saw frogs jumping here and there.  I also found tadpoles and fish and all manner of insects, including a strange bug that could skate around on the surface of the water.

My Pawpaw was the first person to really introduce me to the natural world and to encourage me to get out into it—to explore, to observe, and to appreciate its beauty.  He never failed to point out a cloud with an interesting shape or to talk about the crazy, neon colors that gathered in the sky at sunset.  Once, while we were driving along a lonely country road, we passed a field of wheat.  I asked him about it, and he stopped the truck.  He asked me if I wanted to see how it tasted.  I said I did, so he told me run out and pull a stalk and give it a try.

Looking back at his life now, my grandfather was a nature lover and an environmentalist before loving nature and environmentalism were cool.  He taught me that we are connected to the world, that we are nature and that nature is in us.  Sadly, this is a lesson not everyone learns which goes a long way toward explaining why so many treat our beautiful surroundings so abusively.

The night my grandfather died, I was sitting beside him, holding his calloused hand.  His fingers were gnarly and twisted from a long life of hard work.  Suddenly, the tears poured out of me as I began to realize that I was in the process of saying my goodbyes to him.  Not long after that, he took his last breath.  And then, just like that, he was forever gone.  The man who had always loved nature was about to make his last trip back into it.

I invite you to leave comments about those who’ve played a pivotal role in your life.  To keep ourselves fully alive, we need to periodically remember those who’ve left us and left their marks on us.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

16 thoughts on “Giving Thanks: Blog Two

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    1. He touched my life and taught me many lessons beyond those I discussed in my blog. I know he also touched and shaped many other lives as well. The world is full of great people who do wonderful things, and such folks will never be given any sort of public recognition for the fine lives they’ve lived. My grandfather was one such person. And yet, when he died, there were hundreds of people who came to say their goodbyes to him. Thank you for you comment!

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  1. Your grandfather was an amazing man! He taught you well 🙂
    Funnily enough, my grandfather was very different and yet similar in a lot of ways. My grandpa (Grampie) was an office man, who loved his garden and his tennis game every week. I have so many fond memories of strawberry and tomato picking, climbing trees, and riding my bicycle where he could keep an eye on me from the tennis court.
    The greatest lesson he taught me (which is the one I am most thankful for) is that everyone is special in their own way – including me!!! And he taught me that a little bit of kindness costs me nothing, but can go a very long way for a hurting soul.
    Thank you for this post, and allowing me the opportunity to revisit these times with my Grampie. How I miss him! (He was also a dad for me for many years – my parents split when I was 9, and I wasn’t allowed to see my dad often. Grampie stepped up, and never failed me 🙂 )

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    1. Wow! I really connect with your comment. When we think of manly men, men who spend their lives out of doors and doing the kind of work such guys do, we have this stereotypical view of them. We them as these thick-skinned tough guys, but my grandfather was really sensitive and a kind of artist in his own way. He taught me that a man could be masculine but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be soft and emotional and dreamy. It sounds like your Grampie was a similar sort of great man! I intend this blog to help us question selfhood. We often think that people make themselves, that the force of their personality turns them into the individuals they become. Selfhood is much more complicated than that. We are the people we’ve loved and who’ve loved us back. Thank you so much for sharing your warm story. I think I have a clear picture of your Grampie and what he meant to you.

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      1. It was my pleasure to share, and celebrate, my wonderful grampie. Men can most certainly be masculine and still have soft hearts! Those are, in fact, the best kind! 🙂
        It is so true that the people who have had the most influence in shaping the positive goodness in us are the ones who loved us , despite ourselves sometimes 😉 I’ve been so blessed to have a few.
        Thank you again for the great post! 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! Was there someone who played an equally important role in your life? If so, why not tell us about us about this person here. I’d love to hear your story about what he or she meant to you.

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  2. I feel like we had the same grandfather experience he played a huge role in my life I was with him on his deathbed, he was a very nice person everyone called him “uncle” because he really left a mark wherever he went. I was 16 when he passed away 7 years later I still dream about him as though he never left. I’m too young for all of this 😅😩

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    1. I suppose they never really leave even though they’re “gone.” My grandfather has been dead for about sixteen years, but I think about him almost every day which keeps alive in my memory. I owe the best parts of my personality to his influence. Thank you very much for sharing your story. Your grandfather sounds like the kind of person I’d like to have known. Take care.

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  3. Oh, goodness. What a delightful man he must have been! I think it’s lovely that he was able to be himself without sacrificing his soft heart, or his wonder and love of the world. That kind of gift is rarer now.
    There are days I miss my maternal grandmother terribly – she was very much in a cage of societal constructs and expectation, which, in turn, she passed on to her grand daughters especially. “Ladies don’t do *this”. At the same time, she was forever busy, creating, welding, taking blacksmithing courses, painting, decorating and being creative. She found ways through the bars, and that I can appreciate now more so than I could then. We know a lot more about mental health issues than were “acceptable” then, and I wonder at what she might have become with the right healthcare and the freedom to explore as she couldn’t.
    I learned from her who I didn’t want to be – trapped in a certain type of life. I learned that it’s absolutely possible to be creative and witty and kind, and make how to make those moments count. I learned that following my happiness is more important than filling in someone else’s blanks. It was a rough lesson, but better than no lesson at all,

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    1. Your grandmother sounds like an interest mix of the conventional and the unconventional. Now that we’re getting closer to Thanksgiving I wanted to write a series of blogs about those who’ve come before and left they’re mark. In America, I think we associate Thanksgiving often with being thankful for having material things and status and such. I wanted to do a different kind of Thanksgiving this year. I understand how family members can teach us about the sort of person we don’t want to be. I’ve got a few very judgmental and religiously strict kinfolk that I watch and learn from. I suppose we all have such influences in our lives. They can influence us positively and negatively. Thanks, Liz, for posting another cool comment. All this writing about those who’ve come and gone and played a pivotal role in my life has got me feeling very introspective. Take care and stay in touch.

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  4. I am essentially a replica of my mom, but I share with my dad some traits too. I haven’t spent much time with my grandparents, so I don’t know how much I share with them. But I agree that each human is a mixture and each mixture is unique. Yet, because the parts of the mixture is from other people, it is also not that unique. This dilemma is the beauty of humanity.

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    1. I visited my father this past weekend and told him that “We’re two peas in a pod.” Truly, we’re like soulmates. With my mom, it’s a bit different. I see lots of her in me though. It’s funny how we become more and more like our parents as we age. Thanks, Betul, for participating in this discussion.

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