There is a genetic lottery of sorts that goes on inside every child. The combination of genes from the mother and father dictates everything about the child, from eye color to foot size to, yes, many aspects of personality. I, for instance, was blessed with my father’s wit and my mother’s ability to quickly rationalize situations. This means I can diagnose situations and respond in a matter of seconds. The flip side is that I also do that faster than my brain’s filter can properly process, so its definitely hit or miss. (All of you who had a conversation with me within the last, well, ever are silently nodding in agreement. Remember, you are not alone.)
I was also given my mother’s freakishly small hands, my dad’s eye color (which my optometrist wife affectionately refers to as “mud”), my mom’s straight hair, my dad’s deceptively ginger hair, and a host of other things that some people might call “less than desirable traits.” I embrace them and make them work. (Now you’re all laughing. I’m okay with that.)
If there was ever a winner of the genetic lottery, it would be my great-grandfather, who I call Grandpa Stockburger. Many of you might posit that Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling or Chris Pine (my wife’s vote) would be the winners, but hear me out. Where else could you find this combination?
Health: Grandpa got sick recently. This came as a shock for two reasons–Grandpa is 101 and no one can ever remember him being sick. Now, I’m sure he actually had a cold once, but I’m also pretty sure that the cold virus knew to never ever mess with him again after that. You do not live to be 101 in Spearfish, SD, without being tougher than nails. I feel myself breaking down at 29 and I wonder how in the world he did it…and then I pray that I got that set of genes.
Intelligence: I had the honor of speaking at a commemoration for him a few years back, and I focused on his legacy–the families and lives changed because of his presence in this world. His offspring, three daughters, are some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever encountered. His academic legacy includes teachers, administrators, school presidents, coaches, doctors, lawyers, ministers, musicians, and whatever you classify me as. When asked what his best advice at turning 1o0 was, he replied “Get your relationship with Jesus right, and don’t let any church or minister mess it up.” Amen brother.
Passion: Grandpa was a Razorbacks fan. I can’t really hold this against him because he spent so much of his life in Fayetteville, but it certainly clashes with my burnt orange inclinations. As long as he had access to an Arkansas game–I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter which sport–he was a happy man. His passion for Arkansas was only surpassed by three things: his God, his family, and food. After turning 100 we took Grandpa out for breakfast, where he proceeded to out eat me, throw down coffee, and charm the waitress to the point I think it might be the best service I’ve ever had. Anywhere. His legacy of faith is almost immeasurable, as we have touched numerous Christian colleges, schools, churches, camps, organizations, and it expands on a daily basis. And as for his family…
Love: One of the times we went to Spearfish to see Grandpa, Abby asked if she could take a picture with him. We were newly married, and this was one of our first trips together. His response was “I always say yes when a pretty girl wants to take a picture with me.” There are two issues here–First off, why didn’t I get that charm in the genetic lottery? Secondly, and most importantly, I’ve never seen Abby blush like that. I need to step up my game.
I didn’t need to worry though…Grandpa had his love, and it burned deeply and without fail. When Grandpa started to take a turn for the worst, his hospice nurse relayed a story to the family about how, while seemingly asleep, Grandpa put his arms up in bed and began swaying back and forth, as if he was dancing with someone. Grandpa and Grandma used to go out dancing all the time, often competing in (and winning!) dancing competitions. Grandma preceded Grandpa in death by 14 years, and yet his love for her was so strong he found a way to dance with her one more time on this mortal coil. No one will ever convince me otherwise.
God may not make “perfect men,” and that’s okay. Our flaws and defects make us interesting. But if I have one wish in this world, it’s that I grow up to be Grandpa Stockburger. I’m infinitely blessed to have even the smallest genetic link to him, and any part of that inside of me makes me a better person, a better husband, a better brother, a better friend, and hopefully in the future a better father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Loy Stockburger might have passed away this morning, but he literally and figuratively lives on inside each one of us. That makes me the luckiest person in the world, and I don’t need a lottery to verify that.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go dance with my wife.