I haven’t got anything to do this Sunday morning, which isn’t surprising because it is a Sunday morning. I would normally be asleep, but I got up at six o’clock to have breakfast with my uncle, grandpa, and great uncle. It was worth it. On the way home, my mom and I were talking about the family and I realized how lucky I am to have the grandparents I do- on both sides of my family.
This post was prompted by breakfast with my grandpa and his recent 80th birthday. I am realizing that I only see my extended family once or twice a year and I am realizing how precious that time is.
On my dad’s side is Ed Newcomer (He is the one I had breakfast with.) He is a salt of the earth Lutheran church goer. He is a conservative white collar businessman (well he was- he is retired now.) He was raised on a farm and served in the Navy. With only the description I have given, you might wonder why a gay urban teenager would like him. Well I have only begun to explain my grandfather. He plays the piano and sings (very well.) He even started his own band when he served in the navy. These characteristics are admirable, but the real meat of his character stands in his work ethic. In the seventies, after moving around a couple of jobs, Ed decided he could do a better job of running a company than the people he had worked for. He just decided to start his own business. He bought a company in the garage door industry that, at the time, had a negative net worth and annual gross profit of only a few million dollars. He poured his heart into the company and, over the next forty years, built a diligent, responsible, customer oriented business with an annual GP over 150 million dollars and over 800 employees. It is not the money that is impressive though. Ed was never groomed to be a business owner. He was never handed a job. He just got out of bed one morning and said, “Dammit, I am going to do this.”(Maybe without the swearing. I can’t say I’ve ever heard him swear.) It is that work ethic and dedication that I respect.
My mom’s dad is 110 percent different than Ed. My other grandpa, Larry, is a mathematician and Jewish New Yorker living in Tennessee. Although he and my grandma live in the south now, both were raised in New York. Unfortunately Larry was also raised during the Great Depression. Times were so tough that he and his mom had to move in with his grandparents for a few years. There were days when his mom would go hungry so that he could have a meal. In a time so uncertain, only one event was non-negotiable. He was going to college. If ever there was a type of person who could be a hard-ass, stubborn, loving, and stubborn, it was a New York Jewish mother. So when Larry came of age he attended City College of New York. After that he worked his way up the laboratory ladder and then settled at the Oak Ridge National Lab and received a PhD from Princeton. He did some sort of nuclear research that I don’t think anyone would understand without a PhD, he wrote a few books, and he taught some university classes. Today he and my grandma live in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a small house in a small neighborhood in a small town. My grandpa’s story is not one of wealth or business, but of passion. His childhood was fraught with hardship and stripped pf opportunity. But Larry knew what he wanted to do. And so he did that and all else followed.
My grandfathers were raised in and worked in completely different environments. They led completely different lives and are completely different people- except for one set of traits. They are motivated as all hell and they have a passion that they followed. For Ed it was his business; for Larry it was his research. I hope that I inherited as much of that drive as possible.
Of course I have to add my grandmothers as well (I know one of them would come after me if I left her out.) My grandma on my mother’s side, Larry’s wife, Blanche, matches my grandpas’ drive with her personality and dedication to work. She has a PhD and worked as a school psychologist well into her seventies. I never knew my grandmother on my dad’s side because she died of breast cancer right when I was born. My grandfather did remarry eventually though and he couldn’t have chosen a sweeter woman. My step-grandma, really just grandma to me, brightens visits with her constant cheeriness and warmth. I love all of them and I hope to spend many more years visiting