My grandfather recently turned 92 years old. I was lucky enough to visit and celebrate with him. I was even luckier to be able to enjoy him for the reality of who he is. Whereas this task may seem simple, it has not been so for me. Let me give you a little back story.
Historically, my grandfather and I have both had very strong opinions. Our opinions have usually been quite opposite. We have had many heated debates all while my grandmother and mother pleaded, “stop, STOP!” My grandfather grew up in a small town with very little diversity. He would sometimes make judgements about a particular race, and not always in the kindest of terms. I grew up in a larger city with a lot of diversity and loved it. In fact, I felt like more diversity meant even more beauty. In my grandfather’s opinion, automobiles needed to be American-owned. “Jap crap” was not allowed in his driveway.
My first education was in business and I became enthralled by the global economy. I liked the idea of producing and trading based on areas of strength. One time, my grandfather and I were watching a show that featured a story about a woman who had adopted children from a third-world country. He irately started talking about “women who take advantage of the system” and “too many people in our country already”. I had traveled to El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti to serve on Medical Missions. I loved humanitarian work and connecting with cultures beyond my own.
More recently, as my grandfather has been nearing the end of his life, our conversations have revolved around his repeating stories, the weather, and my job. He usually ends most conversations by telling me how proud he is of me for “being a nurse”. During this time, I have grown tired of being a nurse, wanted to stop being identified as a nurse, and have shifted into prioritizing self-care. In each of the above instances, I was so convinced that my opinion was right and somewhat superior. I could not fathom how or why my grandfather could think that way.
Fast forward to the 92nd birthday visit. My mother asked me to interview my grandfather for the Veterans’ Project. My grandfather had grown up on a farm and enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. His brother and cousins all enlisted. He was protected because he grew up on a farm, but there was no question about serving. He just did it. He was in Pearl Harbor and the South Pacific. His time was spent on a tanker in which his life could have ended on any day at any time. After the war ended, he detonated landmines in Japan.
I can barely imagine the horror and trauma that he endured. I could never understand why someone would identify with that for the majority of their adult life or why they would spend time at a place like the American Legion, but now I could. For my grandfather’s generation, serving in the war was what they did to show love for their country. No questions asked. The only folks that could possibly understand this were others who had served. He relates to me as a nurse because he thought highly of the Navy Nurses and their selfless service. I did not choose to be a nurse. I felt called. I serve because of my love for humanity. My grandfather and I are united in our love of service.
In reflecting back on my grandfather’s life experiences and my own, I am clearly able to see how his life has so greatly impacted mine. I have inherited his opinionated personality and passion for causes in which I believe. I have been forced to move beyond my opinionated personality and go a little deeper to find compassion. Every person has a story that impacts their opinions and thoughts on life, but beyond all of that we are all pretty similar. Most of us are driven by love in some way, shape, or form. I am eternally grateful for Dick Tiffany, my grandfather, who passed on his love for service and thus inspired Tiffany Lee Holism, my holistic nursing practice designed to serve myself and others.
I'm a Registered Nurse & Registered Yoga Teacher who resides in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I am passionate about self care, building a co-created coaching practice, and sharing my journey.