Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
The Greatest Man I Ever Knew
I've seen statues of great men: Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt,
Pasteur, Churchill, and others. They were all heroes in their time.
I've met famous politicians. But, I have never considered any of them
heroes though. Politicians today are a breed apart from ordinary folks.
That's a good thing, I assure you. Whenever I hear a politician speak I
watch their eyes as they read the teleprompter and I wonder if they have
any sincerity at all in their hearts. They're reciting words. Just
words. Is it just me? It's probably my jaded mind I bet. Whatever they
may be, I don't consider any politician that I know a hero. They're lots
of things, but the word "hero" isn't one of them.
I see kids and grown men and women wearing the jerseys of their
favorite sports heroes. I shudder. Some of these sports heroes aren't
heroes at all, they're not even decent human beings. Some people idolize
them because they can kick a ball or hit a ball or run with a ball or
throw a ball, or batter an opponent to senselessness. Some are idolized
because they possess decadent wealth and glorious fame. What a scanty litany upon which to
build mankind's heroes.
And, then we have actors, singers, and other entertainers. Most of
whom became heroes because they look better than Fred or Sally at the
local grocery store. We idolize their appearance and sometimes their
skills. But heroes? Hardly.
What about those great men and women to whom we've erected statues? I
didn't know any of them - but indeed some must have
been great heroes of their time. At least history tells us so. But, I
didn't know them I'm sorry to say.
So, I live a world today where so-called heroes are a dime a dozen.
But, in this era of insincerity, superficiality, and selfishness, it's
hard to find a real hero, that's for sure. I consider myself
lucky though, because I do have a hero. And, he's a real hero too.
He wasn't famous. Not many have ever heard of him. Just a few
neighbors, co-workers and friends. He wasn't much to look at. In a room
full of people, I doubt any of you would have noticed him. Indeed, he
was short, fat and bald. And he wore bifocals in horn-rimmed frames. He
ate too much, too often, and didn't exercise at all. But, he's my hero.
Because he was in my life, my world is a little better place. And,
because of him, my kid's world, is a little better place too; even
though neither of my sons ever met my hero.
My hero died many, many years ago. But, there has not been a single
day that has passed since then that I have not thought of him. I haven't
visited his grave very much at all. Less than I'd care to admit. But, I
know he's not there anyway. He's with me every day of my life. I often
find myself asking his advice knowing somehow he's listening. I feel him
nearby always. He's alive in my mind and he's alive in my world and
that's the greatest tribute and honor I can give anyone.
My hero is someone you don't know, and I'm sorry for that. I wish you
could know him. My hero is my grandfather. He's the greatest man I ever
He didn't hit baseballs and he didn't kick soccer balls or score
game-winning touchdowns. He didn't write novels, or entertain on
television. He wasn't a politician. He didn't sing very well. He wasn't
handsome or dashing, or even sophisticated. He wasn't the least bit
famous. Very few knew him. But that makes him even more special because
he was such an uncommon man. I'm honored to have known him. I'm honored
to call him my hero.
Though decades have passed since he died, I can remember those soft
summer nights when he would take me for walks. I was very young -
perhaps five or six. Sometimes we'd walk to Battery Park on Sandusky Bay
and sit on the park bench for what seemed an eternity - and I enjoyed
every minute of it. We'd talk about stories, books, inventions, and
other things which he noticed interested me. He cared about me; he cared
enough to care to talk about what I wanted to hear. Even at age six.
I'd see a June bug. In those days, before the bay became polluted,
June bugs, on certain nights in summer, would cover everything by the
bay. They were harmless, benign, strange-looking insects. Sometimes they
would become so thick, if you weren't careful, you'd slip as you walked
because they literally covered the ground. My grandfather was smart. He
knew almost everything! He'd fascinate me by telling me that June bugs
only lived for twenty-four hours. I remember being fascinated by that.
He told me that to a June bug, twenty-four hours was a lifetime. He'd
explain that time passed so slowly for them that they lived an entire
life in one day. I was in awe of him. He was so smart.
Sometimes on summer evenings, we'd take a walk to Otto's. Otto's was
any kid's favorite place. And I think it was one of my grandfather's
favorite places too. Otto's was a dairy with an ice cream parlor added
to the front of it. I can still smell the inside of that place. I can
still see the red-cushioned counter stools and the gleaming green-white
counter. I can see the milk shake machines and hear them whirring and
stirring up the best chocolate milkshakes in the world.
And, sometimes we'd take a walk to the old railroad station. To a
small boy, it was a huge, cavernous place with echoes. It was nearly all
wood - wooden walls, wooden floors, wooden ceilings. Not much of it was
painted that I recall. It was a dark wooden place with echoes. Echoes
are what I remember best about the old railroad station. My grandfather
would take me inside and we'd sit on one of the big wooden benches and
talk. I used to shout and listen to my voice echo around that huge place
and my grandfather would smile and tell me a little about echoes. Little
did he know or even imagine then, that his words and his memory would
echo through my life. These echoes of days gone by still make me pause
in the middle of the busiest day and smile as I remember my grandfather
and my days with my hero.
In the winter he would take me ice skating at the boat basin near
Battery Park; and stand there for hours in the cold watching me try to
In the spring he'd break out the baseball gloves and play catch with
me. In the fall we'd take "hikes" and go on buckeye hunts. We'd fill
grocery bags with buckeyes and make necklaces out of them or just polish
them up to look at. I don't know what ever became of all those buckeyes.
Though I seldom visit his grave, I can tell you there are no
monuments or statues erected in his honor. It's just a grave with a
headstone bearing his name and the name of my grandmother. Just a grave
among thousands and so ordinary you'd never recognize it if you walked
passed it. Yet buried there is a wonderful man who means as much to me
today as he did all those years ago. My hero is buried there in an
ordinary grave, in an ordinary cemetery, among ordinary people in an
ordinary little town in Ohio.
But, to me, my hero is not dead. He lives in my mind and more so in
my heart every day of my life. When he spent time with me, I always felt
he did it because he wanted to and not because he felt he had an
obligation. I think he really enjoyed it as much as I did. He called me
his "pal" and I think I was.
His legacy lives on in me and in my two sons. When my sons were
growing up I tried to be like my grandfather. I learned so much about
life and love from him. I really enjoyed the times I spent with my
children when they were growing up. But, I don't think I was nearly as
good with them as my grandfather was with me. I could have done better,
I think. I don't know that I'll ever be a hero to my sons. But, my
grandfather would be pleased to know that because of him my sons had
some very special times when they were growing up. Times they'll
remember many years from now and share with their children someday.
I don't wear the jerseys of NFL stars. I don't have any heroes that
sing or dance. I don't buy things because some illiterate sports hero
tells me I should. My hero isn't a senator, congressman, or any other
sort of politician.
To the world, my hero would seen the most ordinary of men: a short,
overweight, bespectacled, bald man, whose heart was bigger than the sky.
And though it was noted, in a tiny obituary printed on an obscure page
in a our small-town newspaper, that he had passed away - he will never
die as long as he lives in my heart. And he will live in my heart every
single day of my life.
I honor him by remembering him. And I will always remember him
because my grandfather was the greatest man I
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