Walking with Grandpa

Walking with Grandpa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Walking with Grandpa

The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.

~Origen

Grandfather was a wise and honorable man. His house was not far from ours, and I would visit him often going home after school.

No matter how rotten I had been, I could tell Grandpa anything. My secrets were safe. He always understood. He loved me.

I remember a time when a bunch of us were playing baseball in the field behind Mrs. Ferguson’s house. I hit one pitch just right and… slam! It was a home run that soared high and away, and ended up shattering Old Lady Ferguson’s kitchen window! We all ran!

Walking home, my best friend, Tom, asked, “How will she ever know who did it? She’s blinder than a bat!” He had a point.

I decided to stop by Grandpa’s. He must have known something was up by the expression on my face. I felt ashamed. I wanted to hide. I wanted to bang my head against a tree a thousand times and make the world just go away — as if punishing myself could undo things. I told him about it.

He knew we had been warned many times about the dangers of playing where we shouldn’t. But he just listened.

“I was wrong,” I told him, with my head down. “I hate myself for what I did. I really blew it. Is there a way out? Will she call the police?”

“Well,” he said, “she has a problem, just like you. I’ll bet if she knew you cared, she would be sad to know that you’re afraid of her. I’ll bet she wishes you would give her a chance… a chance to be understanding. It’s your decision,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Just so I don’t say the wrong thing, is the plan to pretend nothing happened? Just keep quiet and carry your little secret around… hide what you’re not proud of?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Things might get worse….”

“Let’s think it through,” he said finally. “If you were Mrs. Ferguson, what would you do?”

I had been afraid that Mrs. Ferguson would stay mad at me, so I ran. I didn’t know what she might do. On the way home I imagined that she was a mean witch chasing me, and the further away I ran, the more gigantic she grew… until finally she towered over the whole town, seeing my every move with an evil eye.

“Well,” I said, taking a deep breath, “One solution is to tell Mrs. Ferguson I’m sorry and offer to fix her window.”

“If you call her,” asked Grandpa, “what’s the worst that can happen?” I had to think for a moment. I realized that even if she did not accept my apology, it could not be any worse than seeing the disappointment on Mom and Dad’s faces.

Grandpa smiled when he knew I had figured it out.

“Doing what’s right is not always easy,” he said, handing me the phone. “I’m proud of you.” Grandpa did not make me do it. It was always my choice. I knew I had found the best answer, just by thinking it through. That’s how Grandpa did things. As it turned out, things were not anywhere near as bad as I had first imagined.

“Owning up to what you’re not proud of is the hardest thing of all,” said Grandpa. “Choosing to be honest, on your own — even when you don’t have to be — makes others trust you and respect you.”

Besides, it made me feel really good about myself. No one can ever take that away. Thank you, Grandpa.

Mrs. Ferguson and I eventually became really close friends. She was so kind and grew to take a real interest in me. I started doing all kinds of odd jobs around her house after school, which eventually helped me to save enough to buy my first car. She once told me, “Fear can make the smallest things look so much bigger than they really are.”

Just before he passed away Grandpa asked me, “Who will you turn to when I’m gone?”

Holding his hand I told him, “Honor is its own reward, Grandpa. And a good teacher lives on through his student. Thank you.”

After Grandpa died, everyone was sad. So many people loved him and would miss him.

I still talk to him, in my thoughts. I imagine how he would approach things, what questions he would ask… what advice he might give… whenever there is a problem. His soothing voice is clear and simple.

Grandpa gave me the tools to fix many problems… and cut them down to size.

And most of all he showed me I was brave.

~Uncle Greg

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