Text from mom at 8:36 AM on 4.30.13
Ur gpa is n ICU @ Madera hospital. He is giving up. N a lot of pain + just wants to die. He talked to the nurse about suicide. He just wants to go.
My grandpa was about 40 years old when I was born. Pretty young to be a grandpa. I was the first grandkid and admittedly the best. I was spoiled and loved. I grew up seeking safety and my grandparents provided that. My grandpa didn’t really know much about emotions, but his knew how to love me. I changed him. Before I was born, he view towards minorities was this: “I’ll work with them, but I don’t have to like them.” I don’t blame him for this mindset. I chalked it up to generational influences. But that changed when he held his half black, half white, born to a teen mom out of wedlock with a dad who was never to be seen or heard from again.
Everything I knew about a dad or father figure, I learned from his example. He carried a black lunch box with a red thermos. He always shaved at night and would run his electric razor over my face so I could shave too. I still remember how warm it felt on my skin and how warm I felt inside. Then he’d slap me in the face with a palm full of Aqua Velva and I’d smell great. He had a green recliner and each night my grandparents would pop popcorn. We’d side together and watch Little House on the Prairie or Hee Haw. On Sunday, we’d come home from church and watch football. He’d fall asleep, my grandma would turn the channel, he’d wake up and say that he was still watching the game. he liked the Braves because they were on TBS and was the most open fair-weather fan I even met. Whenever my mom had a bad relationship, grandpa opened his house. They never judged. Not openly. He put in a full career and took retirement at 55. He always worked and modeled a strong work ethic. In retirement he decided to buy a ice cream cart and peddle around the town selling ice cream to kids. He purposefully undercut the competition. He would say that it’s better to collect a lot of nickels instead of only a few dollars. By this time I was in high school and running track. I’d see him ride by on his cart and I’d ask for an ice cream. He wouldn’t give me one. I’d have to buy it. I respect that. It’s business. He gave me so much, but there were limits. He always made the broken Drumsticks available for free. Sweet.
He was proud of me. I was proud of him. Dropping out of school in the ninth grade, his reading skills were pretty poor. He still took the time to read to me. Not perfectly read, but perfectly received. I remember him traveling to my track and cross country meets, welcoming me after a race. Talking about his days as a middle school star athlete. He had me on a pedestal. I also had him on one.
My mom was married several times and had several bad relationships. I was put in situations that were dangerous and scary, but I always felt safe with my grandpa. He and my grandma had the marriage I dreamed of. They created safety, encouraged involvement, and were responsible humans. They took time to visit old friends and vacation with grandkids.
After about 56 years of marriage, it surfaced that my grandpa had been unfaithful. Not in the distant past, at the very moment of discovery. We learned that he had been unfaithful for a number of years, with a number of women, in a town of 35,000 people. And he was unapologetic. The day I found out. I was crushed. The safety I felt, the respect, the honor, was gone. In an instant, my grandpa became just like all the men my mom had known (I will not include my current step dad, Mitch. He is a great guy). Those men were also unapologetic. I knew those men. I knew what they did and why they did it. I didn’t hate my grandpa, I just no longer cared. There was anger, but I dealt with that. All that remained was sadness.
I will often say that my life lessons consisted of a series of opposites: I observe my mom doing this and it turned out bad, so I would do the opposite. I see a man treat a woman like crap, and I do the opposite. That isn’t always true and I’ve done my share of hurtful things. Trying to live by a book of opposites does not work. When my grandpa, and my hero, fell, I quickly wrote his opposite chapter. In living out the lesson, I push away from him. I assumed the opposite physical space.
The truth is, I am the person I am today, because of him. He taught me to soar. He provided an place for me to be creative, take chances, and become Travis Sheridan. I’ve worked nearly everyday of my life, because of him. I cuddle on the couch with Gina and enjoy popcorn and TV, because of him. I tell entrepreneurs to charge for good inventory, but use broken pieces as free samples, because of him. I love sports, but don’t let them define me. I read to kids, although they are not mine. I strive to create safety for my family. I do all these things because of him.
Today I called and talked to him on the phone. He sounded bad. Really bad. We haven’t talked in probably three or four years. I told him that I loved him. I thanked him for helping me grow. I forgave him. Today, I was made very aware that while heroes fall, we can’t forget how they taught us to soar.