A Question of Dignity

I know happiness and I know heartbreak. Failure has kissed my lips and wrapped its arms around me- but victory hasn’t ever been a stranger to me either. I have a closet full of trophies and more than memories of triumph. I have loved and lost and lived. Take a walk through the stacks here and you’ll find examples of these things. You’ll see the stories that make you laugh and stories that make you feel other things.

Read the archives and you’ll find more than one discussion about the boundaries of blogging. I think about these things for many reasons. I worry about invisible people and wonder about whether we live in a bubble. Really I spend quite a bit of time looking for teaching moments. I do it because two kids and a dog call me dad. I do it because being a parent is a little bit like being on one of those crazy Japanese game shows.

I do it because life consistently presents opportunities that remind me that there are moments where the focus in life is about a question of dignity.
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That is a picture of items from our garage sale. An unexpected rainstorm is the reason that the ground is wet and things are tossed about- but that is not what I see or think about. What I see is the homeless guy who is standing off to the right side of the page. I can’t tell you how old he was but I can tell you that he was weathered, dirty and that he looked like hell.

Can’t tell you if he read one of our signs and wandered over looking for stuff or if he just stumbled upon us and I don’t care. What I can tell you is that I sold him a pair of shoes and an old backpack for $1. One of my “customers” yelled at me for charging him for those items. She told me that I was greedy. I told her that it was a question of dignity. He asked me how much it cost. He didn’t ask for me to give it to him. So I charged him a dollar for shoes and a backpack that are worth far more than that to him.

That is one of the lessons that I can attribute to my parents/grandparents. He deserved my respect and that dictated my response.

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It was something that I thought about today. As we stood around my grandfather’s bed I watched my children and gauged their response to what they saw. It is clear to everyone including them that the end is almost here. When I went to see him on Sunday I helped him out of bed so that he could go to the bathroom. What that really means is that I carried him five feet and then held him up so that he could answer nature’s call. I did my best not to make eye contact so that he could maintain some semblance of dignity, but we both knew what was happening.

Later on I found myself thinking about both of my grandfathers and reflecting a bit upon their influence upon my life and who I am. I am not the same man I was when my paternal grandfather died. That is not to say that he wouldn’t recognize me because he would- but life has changed me. If he were here he would tell me that you can only play the hand you are dealt and that you the best you can with that.

I’d smile and say that I do that…every day. I’d tell him that I love him, that I miss him and that I am sorry he can’t see how incredible his great grandchildren are.

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I knew that the kids wouldn’t be up for a long visit so when it became apparent that they were getting squirrely I told them it was time to say goodbye. They walked out of the room and started chasing each other down the hall. Grandpa motioned me to come closer and reached out to hug me. I bent over, kissed his cheek and said “I love you grandpa.” He looked me in the eye and said “I love you too.”

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