July 10, 2018. Today I celebrate life for so many reasons. A decade ago I turned 30. I was a free spirit and had great experiences, but I was lost. Surrounded by love but always pushing it away—preferring to keep everyone at a distance.
Exactly two months after my 30th birthday I was in a horrific car accident. I was t-boned by a drunk driver. I broke 14 bones. My lung collapsed. My arteries were mangled. My organs were in my chest cavity. I had a traumatic brain injury. I was code blue. I was in ICU for a month.
My grandfather was a quiet man with a snarky sense of humor, but what he was more than anything was good man who cared about his family. I remember being a kid and walking around our 10 acre property with him in upstate Pennsylvania. He taught me all about the trees. I remember one that smelled like bubble gum and another that taste like root beer. He took us deer spotting and bird watching, and my grandmother took us berry picking and to Sunday bingo. I remember those days fondly.
My most cherished memory of my Pop was when I was 21. What 21 year-old college student signs up to spend a week on the road with her parents and grandparents? This girl. At ages 10, 20, 30 and now nearly 40, I’ve always love spending time with my family (perhaps not at age 14, but that’s a different story).
I had the great fortune to travel to Europe a few times while in college, and it opened up a whole world to me about art, history and humanity. Although I was a business major, I took every philosophy, art history, and anthropology class I could in college. I was overwhelmed and excited about my newfound knowledge.
So my parents, my two Grans and my Pop rented a van and traveled all over Colorado. As I said, my Pop was a quiet man, but once you got him on a topic, he really opened up. We sat in the back of the van together the whole trip, and I started telling him about what I was learning in college. I brought up Friedrich Nietzsche, The Trial of Socrates, Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. And then my Pop started talking about all of these people, philosophies and creations in incredible analytical detail. I was absolutely floored by his knowledge. He was a blue-collar, self-educated man. And for the first time, I understood the extent of his self-education. We talked for hours a day in the back of that van on our road trip. We spent the most time talking about the impressionism because it was my new passion, and he knew so much about it as an artist himself.
What I liked most about our conversations was how interested he was in spending time with me and hearing my opinions. He was my intellectual superior by far, but he really wanted to know his granddaughter’s thoughts … and I really wanted to know his.
Pop wasn’t the most affectionate guy, but he was very loving. At the end of that week, he hugged me and said, “We’re kindred spirits, Lis.” And that’s a memory I’ll hold onto forever. I love you, Pop.