A few days ago a cousin of mine posted some pictures that I haven’t seen in years. They really got me thinking. The first one was a picture of my grandfather from around Christmas 1953 or so, they year “the twins” were born. The next was a picture of him in one of his many workshops, I think this one was in the basement of his house. The last one though, that one threw me for a loop.

Nearly every picture I’ve ever seen of my grandpa shows a man with a smile in his eyes. I think a lot of it was his philosophy. He was from that generation of men who likely didn’t finish school before they went out and started working. That was just the way things were. For a long time I thought that was strange. How could a guy with an 8th grade education do all the things he could do? But then he said something that made me take pause and think a bit. He said that the day he died would be the day he stopped learning.

On Sunday I was thinking about this again after I saw that third picture, and I started wondering if he’d actually said that the day he stopped learning would be the day he died. Yeah, there’s a really subtle difference there, and one that I had to think hard about. The difference, as I see it, is that one of them puts learning in a passive place, and the other in an active place. I believe that my grandpa took the active approach and always tried to learn something new every day. If you know me, you might recognize that trait. If you knew my grandpa, then you know where I got it.

That third picture. I don’t know the date it was taken, but from it’s location, and the lack of smile in his eyes, I can place it some time just before he passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s. I want to believe that he was still in there, still looking out, and still trying to learn. Damn, I miss him.