My parents married young and had all four of my siblings and I before they were 25. Certainly, rare by today's standards, one benefit of young parents is young grandparents. I'm so thankful to still have my grandfather in my life and the lives of my children.
My grandparents are still an active part of our lives. It's such a blessing to see my grandfather interact with his great grandchildren as they have the blessing of truly knowing and loving a great-grandparent. I have priceless pictures of all four generations enjoying time together and sharing memories.
Many of us can point to an individual in our family tree that made choices that changed the trajectory of a branch forever. Good or bad, their actions send future generations in very distinct directions.
My grandfather on my father's side was that catalyst. As a young man, he knew the importance of his actions and the impact they would have. He saw many in his family making decisions that had negative effects and refused to follow their lead. He joined the military to put himself through college and then worked his way from an entry-level engineer to a general manager position in one of the most well-known brands in the world. Now retired for almost 30 years, he's the kind of guy that could take the reins back today and still have incredible success. Only his humility matches his wit and intellect.
Now with kids of my own, and aware of my actions and their consequences more than ever, I've started asking about his life and decisions. Over coffee and some amazing dessert, my grandmother seems to always have on hand when we visit, I love to hear his stories, stories chalked full of nuggets of wisdom.
On a recent visit, we were talking about his family and some of the choices they made. His life was such a stark contrast in many cases to his siblings. I asked why. What compelled him to think about the future and the result his actions would have? He summed it up with a simple piece of advice that I'll never forget.
He said, "Well, it comes down to having a plan. For example, when the kids wanted a cat growing up, you have to realize that a cat is a twenty-year investment. Too many people make decisions and don't think about the future."
Of course, he was being funny as he always is, but I think his analogy of the cat will stick with me forever. It's such a great example of the long-term impact that a small daily decision can have on the future. You would never think of such a small choice leaving such a long-term mark on life.
I walked away thinking about how I could be better at planning for the future. I thought about how I could put my decisions through the same filter.
I realized that this kind of thinking is literally the basis for his actions that changed our family tree for the good, forever.