Some professional word etymologist needs to invent an appropriate term for a person who is not necessarily a friend, but who is much more than an acquaintance. Pal or buddy don’t seem to fit appropriately. The reason I bring this bit of wordsmithing up is that a good person who I knew passed away this past weekend at far too young of an age – 55. I wouldn’t say we were close enough to be considered “friends” unless you use the liberal Facebook variation of that word. Likewise, he was more than just an acquaintance, as we spent countless weekends along the wet, chilly, snowy, and sometimes even sunny sidelines reliving our youth while watching our sons play travel soccer, travel baseball, flag football, and middle school basketball together. During sixth and seventh grade basketball seasons, we even coached together – successfully I might add, considering his son eventually played for Tom Izzo at MSU. But, boy, did we look like Mutt and Jeff as he was 6’5” and I am barely 5’8” tall.
When one reaches the age of 55, we are supposed to be anticipating the chance to relive our youth for a second time as our grandchildren grow up and/or the opportunity to travel the world. As dads, got the first chance to relive our youth with our own kids, but grandparenthood should be another opportunity. As one without any grandchildren to date, I am eagerly awaiting such joys when they arrive – no pressure kids, just me lamenting.
That 15 years or so of watching my three sons play competitive sports were among the best years any parent can experience. I still beam with pride when talking about first goals, first touchdowns, and winning shots. Team photos adorn my office desk. Perhaps, I am reminiscing a tad too much, but once your kids go on to college and especially when they graduate and move elsewhere, those memorable joys are treasured keepsakes to hold close to your heart. I feel bad for my sideline friend who will not have the chance to experience all the joys of being a grandparent. It’s not fair that he should have to die so young, but it is equally bad that he should be denied the opportunity to know his grandchildren.
I may be a bit sensitive on this subject since my father passed away at a fairly young age without ever knowing most of his grandchildren. Even my oldest son barely remembers him since he was only eight when grandpa died. That is a tragedy in itself. A greater tragedy would be for the rest of us to let his memory fade away. I try very hard to note stories of my father to my sons. While they will not meet him or hear his advice directly, my hope is they will still carry a portion of his legacy with them.
It is said that we all die twice – once when our body gives out and once when the last living person who knew us dies thereby taking the last vestige of the memory pf us with them. Let’s all strive to provide our loved ones who have passed with an eternal legacy from generation to generation. I believe our children and grandchildren with be very thankful for this, as they more fully understand their heritage…even amid timeless tears.