Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Girl's Hero

A friend's grandfather recently passed away and she wrote a sweet tribute about him, which inspired me to reminisce about my grandfather who just happened to pass away 3 years ago this week.

My grandfather (Pops as we called him) was a lot of things. He was a true war hero. He was a proud and faithful U.S. Marine who served in WWII and Korea. He was a brave and brilliant fighter pilot who completed many successful missions and earned all kinds of medals and accolades. He was also a national champion tennis player. He had cases of trophies for tournaments won. He was a middle school principal, a college tennis and basketball coach, a husband of 66 years, a father, a grandfather, and so much more. But of all the things he was, the thing that mattered most to me was that he was a little girl's hero.

My parents were divorced when I was a toddler, and my dad wasn't in my life as much as I would have liked. I had an amazing step-father who treated me as his own, and the times I did spend with my dad were valuable times, but my grandfather filled a void I never really even understood was there. I believed I was the most special girl in his life. He treated me like a treasured jewel. He was interested in every silly, senseless story I ever told. He watched intently as I showed him all the tricks I had learned - forward rolls, cartwheels, cheers... each one was amazing in his eyes. He sat by the pool for countless hours while I practiced my dives, performed synchronized swimming routines, and made him count how long I could hold my breathe under water. I made him judge every performance and give me a numerical score, even they were always a perfect 10. He was my pretend student when I taught school, even though I gave him detentions and sent him to the principal's office every day. He taught me how to drive and was a willing passenger as I drove his car all over town at 13 years old. He didn't seem to be the least bit worried that I would crash it. I twirled around in my new dresses, showed off my sparkly shoes, and modeled swim ware, and he thought I was the most charming little girl ever. He taught me how to play cards and played countless hours with me, even letting me win when I needed to. He took me on walks in the mountains of North Carolina and never tired of little-girl conversations along the way. He never told me to stop talking, he never told me to hurry up, and he never told me to come back later. He always had time for me. If he was building in the garage, he let me help. If he was gardening in the greenhouse, he let me plant. I was glued to his side much of the time, and that was plenty okay with him. He was so proud of his little granddaughter, and I knew he believed in me. He thought I could be the president of the United States one day if I wanted to, and I believed him.

Every little girl needs a man in her life that treats her like a treasure. Every little girl needs a man who loves her silliness, who believes in her, who thinks she hung the moon, who makes her feel beautiful, who lets her express herself without reservation, and who always has time for her, no matter what. My Pops was that man. I have a daughter now, and I pray that my little girl will find a real-life hero in her Daddy like my Pops was for me. Daddy's of daughters, don't get too busy or too consumed with the world that you overlook this invaluable duty to be your little girl's hero. Grandfathers of little girls, don't neglect making them feel like your treasure. It won't matter how much money you make, if you're a prized athlete, or even if you're a decorated war hero. What will matter is that you're HER hero. Never underestimate the impact you have on those little girls. It will stay with her. I promise. I am 37 years old, and my Pops hasn't lived on this earth for 3 years. But I still treasure every moment I spent with him. He will live on forever in the woman I am.

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