So much has been given to me I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.
~ Helen Keller
It’s Saturday, June 16, 1984. I’m at my high school graduation party. Tables, decorated in Eisenhower High’s green and white school colors, are 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’s a pretty good crowd and I’m clowning around, manning the bar, serving drinks. Suddenly, one of my friends walks in and says, “Curt, there’s an old dude out here who wants to talk to you.” I look out front and there’s a car idling in the middle of our busy road, an old man behind the wheel. I make my way down the long, gravel driveway toward him. “You’re Curt, right?” he asks. “Sure am,” I reply as I approach the driver’s side window. Shielding his eyes from the sun, he looks up and says, “I’m your grandpa. Here you go.” He hands me an envelope with some money in it. Traffic is beginning to back up behind him and I wonder why he doesn’t pull into the driveway. He checks his rearview mirror, says, “Congratulations,” and drives off.
That was Ben. My dad’s dad.
It’s been nearly thirty years and 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 when he was a boy. 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.
One minute in the road.
There are no cards that say what I want to say to my dad on Father’s Day. Oh, I’ll get him one that will probably feature some cartoon golfer with big white teeth holding a putter, or some guy sleeping in his La-Z-Boy chair. It will probably declare something like, “You’re the greatest dad ever.” But what I really want to say is thank you—thank you for the choices you made. Thank you for the minutes you gave.
My daughter had a softball game last night and her grandparents were there. Dad was the loudest voice in the bleachers, making sure everyone within earshot knew that it was Megan who led the team with three RBI — a stat nobody in rec league keeps except for maybe a proud grandpa or two. Dad loved that the bases were loaded as Megan dug into the batters box and promptly smacked a double. “THAT’S THREE RBI!” he yelled. I laughed because I remember that same voice yelling at my games.
I never knew Ben, but I forgive him. 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 grand kids.
And minutes are all that matter.