A long, long time ago, but not so far away, I was a boy with two grandpas!
One was an old farmer. When we went to visit him, he would always ask me, “How many girlfriends do you have?’ As I grew older, I learned that he was an alcoholic. While he was always friendly to us kids, there was no depth to the relationship. The only time that I ever heard him talking about God was on his deathbed. When he died, there was a sense of loss, but for me, there was no sense of grief. The only times I saw him in a church was at my uncle’s wedding and at his own funeral.
My other grandpa was quite different. He told tall tales about his life. Once, he told me that to get to America he had to swim across the Atlantic Ocean while pulling my grandma behind him on a raft with a rope in his teeth. Being very gullible, I believed this story until I found out that grandma was born in Michigan.
We lived next door to him and my grandma for several years. I have many memories of fishing with him, helping him with simple jobs, and going on trips up north. However, the thing that I remember most about him was his faith in God. He never said much about it, but the fact that he and my grandma were in church with our family every Sunday is an indelible memory. Later in life when saying goodbye, it was always, “We will see you soon, God willing.” It was subtle, but his faith was concrete, as was his recognition of the part that God plays in our lives. Looking back, I have realized that I was always aware of his faith in God.
When this Grandpa died, I experienced a deep grief, but this loss planted a deep sense of purpose in my heart that remains to this day.
A couple of years after his death when I was 18, a girl—who I really liked and wanted to impress—asked me what I wanted to do with my life. My mind raced through many thoughts about what would impress her, but before it could land on one, my heart blurted out, “I want to be a grandpa.” I was surprised by what I said, but as I thought about it, I realized that was what I wanted! I had just grasped the full vocation of family.
Russ Kogut is the grandfather of 6 grandchildren, and lives in Lansing, Michigan.
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