My granddaddy retired very young. I have vague memories of his retirement party; I was very young myself. But for the better part of my thirty-something years of life, Grandmother and Granddaddy have been retired.
Since they retired, Grandmother and Granddaddy have taken taekwondo, learned to speak French, criss-crossed the continental U.S., traveled to Europe, expanded their home from two bedrooms to three (with their own four hands—and my two in the summers), cared for aging and ailing family members, and have generally made the most of their time. They have been models for me of lifelong adventure and constant personal enrichment. And quiet, unassuming determination.
Even before they retired, Granddaddy was an artist. It was not his job, mind you. He was an electrician in the Navy during the Korean War. He was an inventory manager for a manufacturing company that made things for the military. He wrote a couple of computer programs. But he was always an artist.
And, in my opinion, he is and always has been a true artist, because he is an artist for art’s sake. He draws and paints beautifully, and most people never see his work. He does not create things with hopes of fame or fortune, but simply because he wants to create lovely things. That’s something I find hard to do. These days I rarely spend time writing unless I’m trying to meet a deadline or unless I have some reasonable expectation that someone will pay me for my effort. I think that’s why I hesitate to call myself an artist. I have a hard time creating something simply for the sake of creating it. My time with Granddaddy this weekend challenged me to take up my quill and write something beautiful, regardless of whether anyone else will ever read it.
This is Granddaddy’s eightieth year of life. His current project is painting small portraits of his parents and siblings. In order to do this well, he is poring over books about portraiture, taking painting classes, learning new techniques. Because anything worth doing is worth doing right, even if no one else will ever see the final product.