My Grandpa Showed Me that Big Love Is Found in the Little Things
Sometimes I think our world has it all wrong. The bigger and better and more is more philosophy when it comes to love—that to show others we love them we must outdo and outspend.
Maybe in a world where gifts are available in abundance, we’ve forgotten that the most valuable gifts we can give are time and patience and a sense of love that can’t be found on store shelves, an online cart, or grand experiences.
I don’t remember my grandparents giving us gifts aside from those created and built by their own hands. My grandpa was a craftsman. A builder. A creator. If you showed him a picture and asked if he could make something like that for you, the answer was always yes. Before YouTube videos with step-by-step instructions or Pinterest were a thing, he was brainstorming and thinking and planning and DIY-ing.
I don’t remember my grandpa saying I love you, but boy did he love us. And he had a way of showing us through the works of his hands.
I remember a three-story dollhouse my grandpa built and my grandma decorated with scraps of carpet as flooring. I can imagine the work it took to build It from scratch, the plans likely drawn in a notebook using the rectangular pencil my grandpa kept in his overalls. I imagine the measuring and cutting and gluing day after day as the dollhouse took shape. It didn’t have themed rooms or tiny, intricate decor. But it was built out of love and given to us with pride.
I remember the barn my brothers received, my own boys a recipient of a similar version from great-grandpa Joe. The way the doors were built to open and the roof to lift on hinges, perfect for storing tiny tractors and miniature farm animals. And the handmade cradles given to the granddaughters where countless dolls were laid.
I remember the cedar chest which even today when opened smells of my grandparents.
And the countless picture frames crafted to hold the photos of our most precious memories. The frames themselves a sort of loving hug around the people beneath the glass.
I remember the way my grandpa let us play with scraps of wood in his basement workshop, fostering our love for creativity and the desire to make something with our own hands. I don’t remember him ever getting angry with us for leaving his tools out or losing his favorite hammer. Maybe that’s because memories are viewed through rose-colored glasses. Or maybe it’s because a grandpa has a special well of patience reserved for his grandkids.
I remember working beside him in that basement as he taught us to read a tape measure and mark the boards for whatever project we had talked him into. I remember the sound of the saw and the way he insisted we were careful to turn it off and unplug it when it wasn’t being used.
To this day, I can’t walk through the woods shop at the high school where I used to teach and my daughter currently has class without taking in a deep breath of sawdust and thinking to myself, man, I love this smell, as it transports me back to my grandpa’s side.
Today when I think of my grandpa, I think of the works of his hands and how really, they were works of his heart.