The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.
~ Tavis Smiley
On June 16, 1984, I was at my high school graduation party. Tables decorated in Eisenhower High School green and white were set up in the garage, spilling out onto the driveway. I think my parents invited every person who’s ever been in their lives. It was a pretty good crowd and I was clowning around, manning the bar, serving drinks.
Suddenly I heard someone say, “Curt, there’s an old dude out here who wants to talk to you.” I looked out front and saw a car idling in the middle of our busy road, an old man behind the wheel. I made my way down the long, gravel driveway toward him. “You’re Curt, right?” he asked as he shielded his eyes from the sun. I knew this was my grandpa, but I hadn’t seen him in many years. “I’m your grandpa. Here you go,” he said as he handed me an envelope with some money in it. I’m sure I thanked him, but his car began rolling forward and it was clear he was leaving.
Traffic had begun to back up behind him and I wondered why he didn’t pull into the driveway. He glanced into his rearview mirror, said “Congratulations,” and drove off.
That was Ben, my dad’s dad.
Today, I still think of that one minute of my life. Sixty seconds can say so much about who we are and the choices we make. I make mine. My dad makes his. And Ben made his. He left his family before my dad learned to walk. It was a decision that turned Father’s Day into just another Sunday for my dad and his brothers. It also left Ben’s newly graduated grandson standing in the middle of the road holding an envelope. I was happy to have a few bucks, but I would have gladly given it back for the chance to know what it felt like to have a grandpa.
Last Father’s Day, I gave my dad a thank you card. I wrote: Thank you for the choices you made. Thank you for the minutes you gave.
I never knew Ben, but I forgive him. That day he gave me one minute in the road. But he gave me so much more; he gave me my dad. I’m sure growing up fatherless permanently wounded my father’s heart, yet he reaches into it every day and gives something that was never given to him: minutes—minutes for me, minutes for my brother and sister, and minutes for his grandkids.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads who give their minutes because minutes are all that matter.