According to Merriam-Webster the word GRIT can be defined as:
firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.
Synonyms for GRIT are:
backbone, constancy, fiber, fortitude, grittiness, guts, intestinal fortitude, pluck, spunk
These words bring my own Father quickly to mind.
He had more GRIT than anyone I have ever known.
Carla has asked me to write a bit about that… and I am afraid I have written somewhat more than A BIT, but I would like to tell you about him and what that GRIT has meant to me.
One of my earliest and fondest memories is of my third birthday.
This picture was taken just after my Sunday School class let out and before we went home to celebrate my special day with a big party.
It is my favorite because it symbolizes our relationship… me, leaning back against him, surrounded by his strong arms, ready to face the world with him at my back. He is crouched down to my level and whispering something in my ear that was encouraging, no doubt, all the while looking straight into the camera… self-assured and open.
In the churchyard with my Daddy
I cannot remember a time in my life when my Father was not my hero and my inspiration.
That remains true today, although he passed from this life just over 25 years ago. I can find his voice in my ears and see the twinkle in his eyes at will. It gives me comfort, and a lot of joy. I am never sad when I think about him because he fills my heart with courage and the will to succeed and move forward.
My Father was born into a family of English/Irish immigrants and they were farmers.
Life was pretty tough; times were lean. Discipline was swift and harsh. He left home very young to make his own way in the world. I think because of that, he grew into a strong, self-confidant man.
He had a wonderful sense of humor, a generous heart.
He was honest, and worked hard and long. I wasn’t spoiled with material things during my childhood, either, but there was an abundance of love and laughter in our house… lots of music, food, drinking and story-telling. It was quite wonderful, really.
My Father stood just over 6 feet tall and was slim with large shoulders and very muscular arms.
My older Sister and I would laugh and tell our friends ‘Our Dad has muscles as big as baseballs’. I remember his physique being somewhat intimidating to my Sister’s young male callers. That strength and those biceps came from hard physical work. He was athletic, too, and moved with speed and grace.
I always knew where my Father stood on things.
He was open and confidant and quick thinking. He was a man who really walked his talk… until he couldn’t, that is. When he was in his early 50s, he was diagnosed with a blood disease that would cripple him and eventually take his legs completely.
He had very poor blood circulation throughout his body and suffered terribly with leg cramps at night.
I recall his being up during the night and sitting in silence, willing the pain to subside… waiting it out.
He had heart bypass surgery and some special tubing put into his legs to try to help. Eventually he had several toes on his left foot amputated because they had turned black from a lack of blood supply, before any gangrene could set in… then they took his foot just above his ankle… then another cut below the knee… finally above the knee, well into his thigh. And then they started on the right leg … bit by terrible and painful bit… till he was left with only stumps where those strong and beautiful legs should have been.
And throughout it all… those years of agonizing pain… I cannot recall how many surgeries altogether, he was strong mentally when he could not be physically.
He never wavered in his resolve to heal and ‘get better’.
He suffered bed sores, and weeping stitches. He overcame infections and bruises. And kept smiling, and laughing and telling us silly stories about things that were going on around him in the hospital. I never saw any sign of him feeling sorry for himself.
This went on over a period of about 8 years, as I recall.
And between the surgeries, when he could be at home, when his wounds were healing and he was feeling well enough… things were good.
He could get himself around in his wheelchair quite well and that just increased his upper body size and strength. They had an elevator installed so he could go in and out of the house and he maintained their vegetable and flower gardens in the yard. He build a back-yard fired pit one Summer.
He never lost his love for having the house filled with friends, and kids, and dogs.
Just before his first surgery he had purchased a new half ton pickup truck. He never drove it, but I think he kept it because he hoped he might at some point.
I would drive it occasionally to take him different places, and I remember him hoisting himself up out of his wheelchair by hanging onto the top of the open truck door and then swinging his body inside, while I stood alongside him like a spotter in a gym. He maintained that upper body strength, right until the end of his life.
And sadly, it was emphysema that took him… all those surgeries were too hard on his lungs.
What did that GRIT… that determination… that spunk teach me?
That there is no giving up just because things get tough… that life gets hard… that you experience set-backs and perhaps pain.
But, you look forward.
You keep trying… you work hard… and you do it with grace and without whining or complaining.
If you have to rant and rail, you do it privately.
With GRIT comes confidence… self-assurance… enthusiasm… and that leads to treating other people with dignity and fairness.
And I am so thankful for my Father for showing me that.