10, 2003 - Lessons I Learned from My Grandfather
My Grandfather Bill and Me
fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.
When I was a
teenager, my grandfather, William Heidenreich, routinely proffered
one simple but significant piece of advice. With a resolute countenance
and pointed finger he said, "Choose your friends with care."
most teenagers, I was strong-willed, blasé, and jaded from
a decade and a half of life experience, and so I found this unsolicited
counsel annoying and almost affrontive to my world-weariness. Choose
my friends with care? I didn't want to hear it. I was fully
capable of choosing my own friends, thank you very much.
many teenagers grow up and come to appreciate the wisdom of their
grandparents, I realized that my grandfather was right. In the typical
process of growing up, I experienced various mishaps with so-called
"friends," and, after each mishap, I heard Grandfather's
kind baritone voice echoing his simple, sage counsel in my mind.
If he'd been so astute about the importance of choosing friends
wisely, then, perhaps, other things he'd said also had some sense
and wisdom to them.
Grandfather's lifelong love of learning, his fierce devotion to
his family and community, his exuberant friendliness, and his delighted
appreciation of cultures and religions outside the American mainstream.
I am fortunate to have inherited his appreciation of diverse cultures,
and I chose my college major, Anthropology, due, in no small part,
to his example.
was particularly proud of a set of Chinese characters that were
prominently displayed in the home that he'd shared with his wife
of 72 years, my grandmother Rosa. I don't remember all the characters,
but one that has stuck with me since childhood appeared to be two
people standing arm in arm:
-- which means together with, all, total, and
share -- exemplifies how I remember my grandfather. He was
a man who stood together with many people in his life, who may not
have known everything about everything -- but was closer to omniscience
than almost anyone I have ever met. He was a man who maintained
an unconditional respect for other people, and did not hesitate
to share his experience and wisdom with those around him.
are the simple but timeless lessons I learned from Grandfather: