My Grandpa is a fisherman.
A crazy, every-day-of-the-year fisherman. Guess that's what happens when you build a house on a lake and perpetually have a boat tethered to the dock. He has a collection of fishing poles that always intimidated me (maybe because we all knew that as mild-mannered as Grandpa was, if one of us kids messed with them, we would get "the look". And no one wanted that.) and so many bait and tackle boxes full of, umm, bait and tackle. When I was little, he would let my sister and I choose certain worms to keep. Of course I always chose the ones with sparkles.
For as long as I can remember, Grandpa has kept a log of the days catch (or lack thereof). He documents the weather and how many crappie and blue gill he nabbed. He would use those little yearly calendars and just jot down the pertinent information. It always amused and touched me. I guess because I love my Grandpa.
I don't know when he began doing this, but over the past few years at least, I have noticed when I have visited that his log has grown into a larger calendar and he writes more than just the day's catch and thermometer readings. He writes that he went to coffee or that he and Grandma had lunch at the Dairy Queen. He'll make notations about who visited and how nice it was. I love seeing his days summed up in two or three sentences.
This morning, because I visited yesterday and spotted his daily notes, I was thinking of them and how, for one, Grandpa never says anything bad about anyone. He doesn't even complain. I've never seen a note that talked about how some young teenage whipper-snapper cut him off in traffic or how something made him angry. Part of that is his disposition, I know... he's not an angry, hot-headed person. He's genuine and kind, honest, fair and giving to a fault.
That doesn't mean there aren't bad days recorded, however. I couldn't help but notice how he had written "bad day" over March 5th: that was the day my Aunt Joyce went home. He recorded how it was a bad day for everyone, how sad we all were. He made notes of when family visited, whether or not Grandma had a good or bad day while she was in the hospital due to her stroke, what a good boy my son is.
He writes about what matters. In three sentences or less.
And I am thinking that there is a lesson there. He doesn't focus on the trivial things. Who said what. Who hurt his feelings. Who took too long scrambling his eggs or how his coffee was too strong, too weak, too hot. He doesn't complain in life about aches and pains or weariness. And he doesn't write about it, either. I think most of us do the opposite or both: either we talk about it to all who will hear and also write it all down just in case we need to remember how miserable we truly are - or we give a happy face to the world and then rattle on about how unfairly life has treated us.
There have been hurts and unfairities in my Grandfather's life... in my Grandmother's, too. That's just life, folks. We see it all the time. We hear about it, read about it, post statuses about it for all of our world to see. Are we that desperate for recognition? I'm not saying you shouldn't hurt when life hurts and invite others into your pain. I think that's what the Christian community should do. But sometimes it's so easy to focus on truly the little things. We major in the minors. We stress about this annoyance or that person that drives us bonkers.... and really, does it matter?
Today I was clearing out some of the clutter from Joel's bedroom closet, because pre-baby, that closet was my scrapbook hoarding station. Now, to make room for little plaid shirts and pants and pajamas and diapers and every other form of baby paraphernalia, some restructuring has to occur. And along one wall in his room is a massive bookcase housing, you guessed it, books. All mine. And two shelves are just journals. And I thought about just pitching them or setting them all on fire. Cause, you know, there is a lot of drama there that no one needs to relive. And that got me thinking about my Grandpa's simple little logs and you know... he has nothing to regret. There is nothing said that he has to worry will hurt someone's feelings should they stumble across his thoughts.
We all have bad days. Messy days. Days when it doesn't go as planned, when the flames rise up, when the harsh words are thrown, when the anger boils. And we can talk about it and call up our friends and get some sympathy, or you know, we could just let it go before it even has a chance to bloom. Before the bitterness sets in, give thanks for what there is to give thanks for. Before unthankfulness stirs the pot, maybe we should stop and think. Is this what we want to be known for? How we'll be remembered? Thought of? When someone sees my number pop up on their caller ID, do they groan, anticipating some exhaustive diatribe about my woes? Or are they excited because talking to me is uplifting? Are my words simple and focused?
I'm beginning to think at the end of my day, maybe I should jot down a few sentences about what went down. And you know,... maybe if I focused on what the blessings are, maybe I could sum it up in a few simple, beautiful sentences like my Grandpa does. Maybe I would relish the fact that I had coffee and got to soak up my son's smiles. Maybe I would write about a friend who had a new baby and how sweet that is. And after I wrote that, it wouldn't matter if my feelings got hurt or if I was extra tired or if I didn't have the kind of productive day I had planned. Okay, so maybe I didn't catch a boatload of fish like I had hoped. But I bet I caught at least one... and if not, well, I guess I'll take the boat out anyway.
That's what Grandpa does and the thing is, it's not some process for him. It's not some test to see how thankful he can be throughout the day, how unconcerned with pettiness. It's just how he has chosen to live. The sun shines, well, you put the boat in the water and have a go at it. It's overcast? Well, you put the boat in the water and have a go at it. And he comes in, never dejected over how little his honey hole produced. He sits down with a couple cookies and writes in his notebook about his coffee, that my Grandma had a good day and that he caught this and if not, well, better luck tomorrow. No need getting in a hissy fit about it.
I think there is very little worth getting into a hissy fit about. Just by the few notes I have caught sight of in my Grandpa's little faux leather calendars, he has yet to find anything worthy of being negative, angry, unlovely about. He notates bad days and when he is sad. But he doesn't push it to a level where it shouldn't be. A level where most of us take things.
Grandpa has tried to teach me the finer elements of fishing. No matter what I do, my line always gets caught up in a tree or over some sunken log. Or, hooked on the jacket behind me. Yeah, that's happened. So, he has tried to teach me how to fish and it's just not something I'm ever going to have any great skill at. So, I haven't been able to learn to fish from my Grandpa. But maybe I could learn how to live in the midst of what matters from my Grandpa.
No sparkly bait and tackle required.
"God blessed Noah and his sons:
he said, "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the earth!
Every living creature - birds, animals,
~ f i s h ~
will fall under your spell
and be afraid of you.
~ Genesis 9:1, The Message