Gampi and Pops

How President George H.W. Bush reminded me of my Grandfather

April 25th, 2017 was the day that my life changed. On April 25th, 2017, I lost a piece of who I was, my grandfather, my pops. He had battled with dementia in the last few years of his life, and my final months with him were what I remember as the darkest hours of my life. Every single time I visited Pops, or every time we talked on the phone, our time spent together ended with me saying, “I love you, Pops,” and his response: “I love you too, Bud.” Unfortunately, things didn’t necessarily end that way. I can vividly remember the last time I saw my grandfather. He was in ICU, and I remember walking into a silent room with beeping medical machines. I just sat there and held the hand of my best friend. Finally, my mother spoke up and said “Daddy, your buddy came to see you.” At that moment, he opened his eyes and smiled. As I prepared to leave, I squeezed his hands and said “I love you, Pops. Keep fighting. You got this.” He smiled and shook his head. Little did I know that that would be the last time I would ever see him.

My grandfather was a man of remarkable integrity. He was born into a poor family, for and he and his brother were first-generation college graduates. Pops had shown me the letter that the Army sent his dad to go fight in World War II and the pictures of a small home by the lake in Anderson, SC. After graduating from Clemson University, Pops entered the Naval Reserves and took a job working in textile plants. His career would take him across upstate South Carolina, Texas, up the Atlantic Coast, and all over the European continent.

Whenever he was not working, Pops enjoyed a nice book on history or crime, a bourbon drink, a walk in the beautiful botanical backyard, and at times, a nice round of golf. It was in the basement living room and on the back porch where he taught me much about American values, history, and politics.

On November 30, 2018, our nation also lost a “Pops” or as the Bush family called him “Gampi,” when President George HW Bush received his eternal reward. President George H.W. Bush was known to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as “Gampi.” As I listened to the reflections they shared and the eulogy given by President George W. Bush, I reflected on my grandfather and how, like President George H.W. Bush, he was remembered for his character, his heart for others, and his courageous legacy as a family man and leader.

In fact, my grandfather had much respect and admiration for fellow Republicans and Conservatives, President Reagan and  President Bush, because my grandfather was active in politics, though he never ran for public office; I sometimes wish he would have because then we could have practiced our putting on the White House Lawn. I always recall a remarkable story of my grandfather and his relationship with one of his best-friends, Mike, who did serve in politics, but as a member of the Democratic Party.  My grandmother has told me countless stories of how the two passionate men would argue over political issues while sitting in the kitchen and sharing a bourbon together. In the end, however, they still had the utmost respect for each other. My grandfather, though a Republican, campaigned for his Democratic friend because he knew that character surpassed politics and that his friend could do the job for the people of South Carolina.

Watching the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, I reflected on the eulogy I gave for my grandfather and how the eulogy of President Bush and the message of the priests echoed the words spoken in the service remembering my grandfather. They both talked about a light that shined. The light that shined in these two men was not one to be put under a bowl, but one to be put on a stand, as the gospel of Matthew and the words of Jesus Christ tells us. The two men sought to find their “stand” in life, but once they did, their light was ever glowing in what at times seems to be a darkened world. Love was the creed in which they wrote across their hearts. They didn’t say. Rather they lived it as Langston Hughes writes in his poem “Live Your Creed,” which I shared at my grandfather’s funeral: “But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do. For I may misunderstand you and the fine advice you give. But there’s no misunderstanding in how you act and how you live.”

My sincerest thoughts and deepest prayers are for the Bush Family and for anyone who was affected by the life he lived. I also pray for this country. If we were to live the creed and shine the light that these two men lived and shined, then our nation would never have to be made great because it would be amazing.