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Our Favorite Veteran

The other day I was driving my boys to school and a song came on the radio that I'd never heard before. It wasn't familiar to me so it really didn't catch my attention, but my son Grayson asked me to turn it up. We listened for a while. The lyrics went on about things the singer wished they could change about the world, most of them nostalgic things about childhood and "the good old days." Then the chorus ended with, "I wish Grandpas never died."

By the end of the song we had arrived at school and Grayson said, "Mom, I like that song because I wish Grandpa never died. He was a good Grandpa." I quickly answered, "Me too." and "Yes, he was." while Grayson kissed me goodbye and hopped out of the truck leaving me with tears in my eyes.

That was just a few weeks ago, but next week marks our 4th year since we lost Grandpa Gene to cancer. It's funny how he still shows up in our lives unexpectedly in little ways. I think this is true for all loved ones who I've lost, but for my kids, this is the first loss they have known. Seeing those moments of connection through their eyes can be both joyous and heartbreaking at the same time.

These photos were taken on Father's Day the summer after we lost Grandpa Gene. They are a little misleading, because they give the impression that Grayson is sad. Actually, the sun was bothering his eyes so he sat behind Grandpa's stone to use it as a shield and he stayed there quietly for a long time.

These photos will always be special to me, and I was reminded of them today, on Veteran's Day. There is something so fitting about the way that Grayson chose to hide there and use that stone for protection until the thing that was bothering him had gone.

Grandpa Gene was always the protector. I know his family could share many more specific examples of this, but I will only share what I know personally about him as the grandfather of my children. During the war he was a dog handler, which meant he and his dog were sent out ahead of the group to check the route for safety before the rest would proceed. As a grandfather, being the protector looked more like being the first to jump in to fix up bumps and bruises with plenty of love.

He was the first of offer to help when something needed fixing, and while he took work seriously, he took play seriously too. He always made time to laugh and play with the boys and when the work was done he would read extra bedtime stories long after Mom and Dad had said they'd had enough.

As I am closing what has been one of my busiest photography seasons, I am grateful that I have had the opportunity and freedom to pursue something that brings me so much joy. Not all are so lucky. I hope that I have been able to capture images for my clients that bring them joy and help them to remember important pieces of their story and seasons of their lives. But I am also reminded that some of our most important moments as a family most often don't come with perfectly chosen clothing and hair. Nor are they all joyous. We don't prepare for them, they just happen.

If you are a veteran, thank you for your service! For all of the families honoring and remembering veterans today, may you cherish the moments that keep you connected to them. For one of our favorite veterans, Grandpa Gene, thank you for your sacrifice. We love you and miss you! You are always in our hearts!

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