09 September 2012

A Legacy of Creativity

My grandfather died a few weeks ago. I got the call as I was travelling from Baltimore, Maryland to our new home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Grandpa had been sick for a while, and so the news wasn't entirely unexpected, but even when you know it's coming, the death of a loved one is a difficult pill to swallow.

Suddenly, the sight of the moon brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the way Grandpa used to transform into an "earwolf" under the light of a full moon. (He said the world had plenty of werewolves, so when his time came to transform, he turned into an "earwolf" instead. He would chase the grandkids around the yard, and we all knew that if he caught us, he would "eat" our ears - which tickled like crazy, because of his full beard!)

My siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all promptly posted tributes to Grandpa on their respective facebook pages and online social networks. I wanted to do the same, but I couldn't. Nothing I could say or do would ever be enough to sum up the life of this great man, who meant so much to so many.

Last weekend, I travelled with my family to Salt Lake City for Grandpa's funeral. I spent the weekend reminiscing and reconnecting with family members I haven't seen in far too long. And as we remembered my Grandfather, I realized that my entire life is a tribute to Grandpa.

People always tell me that they wish they could be as creative as I am. "I would never even think to make purses out of recycled grocery bags!" "What? You built a playhouse loft bed for your kids without even following any pre-made plans? How did you even know how?"

But with grandparents like mine, is it really any wonder that I can't think inside the box?

I remember going to yard sales and thrift stores on weekends with my grandparents, to help them find torn leather jackets that they could purchase for pennies and cut up into pieces. They would turn the leather into beautiful Native American-inspired art pieces: dreamcatchers and wall hangings to celebrate the cultures and traditions of many different Native American tribes. Where others saw only a torn coat, no longer good for anything, my grandparents saw beauty waiting to be born.

The creative spirit went far beyond the beautiful artwork my grandparents created together. I never heard Grandpa say "that can't be done," and he wasn't one to sit back and wait for someone else to figure out how to do it. I can't even begin to count the number of times when someone would idly comment "wouldn't it be cool if we had a device to perform task XYZ?" Grandpa would get that familiar gleam in his eyes, and then he'd disappear for a while: scouring thrift shops, yard sales and his own stash of odds and ends until he'd compiled the components he needed to create such a device.

One shining example of Grandpa's creative spirit: Not long ago, he wanted to take several of his great-grandchildren to Thanksgiving Point (in Utah) for the day. Because his physical health didn't allow him to hike and run and chase and carry the little ones on his shoulders (like he did when I was a child), this was a slightly daunting prospect. Never fear! Grandpa always finds a way. He found several wagons and linked them together to form a train, with his electric scooter as the engine and a large wagon containing my Grandmother in her wheelchair as the caboose. And then he took his great-grandchildren on an outing they'll never forget.

Grandpa taught me to see the beauty and the myriad of possibilities in the world around me. Is it any wonder, then, that I'm driven to imagine and to create?

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