Often life moves so quickly that we hardly have time to catch our breath, let alone reflect on our past – the people and experiences who have molded us into the people we are today.
I was recently reminded of my grandparents – not that I never think about them, but the last living grandparent of mine passed away when I was in college. The unexpected passing of a dear friend’s mom reminded me how devastating that loss is. At the funeral, my friend’s 16-year-old son spoke about his relationship with his grandmother. It was so beautifully moving and reminded me of the close relationship I had with my grandpa… which made me pause and reflect on the time I was able to spend with him, the things he taught me and how greatly he influenced me.
J.W. Schoonover was his name, but those who knew him in his younger days referred to him as “Red.” Like me, he had red hair (they say it often skips a generation). J.W. was a versatile man, a “Jack of trades” if there ever was one. He started out as a gas station owner. Then he joined the Air Force as a pilot, serving in Vietnam, where he flew C-130 Cargo planes. Upon retiring from the Air Force, grandpa returned to his hometown of Haven, Kan. (that’s my hometown too, it’s pretty fantastic).
He was such a hard worker and loved, more than anything, to be busy. He farmed with my great-grandpa, and they also renovated houses in town and kept them as rental properties. And, in case that wasn’t enough, he later opened a store – a combination coffee, flower and gift shop. That may seem like a bit of a stretch for the mid-1980s, but in hindsight, it was pretty brilliant. It’s a clever way to maximize your commercial space AND market to the multiple needs of your small town neighbors.
Now, when I say “coffee shop,” I’m not talking whip/no whip, extra shot, skim or soy. There were two options – regular or decaf, plus powdered creamer and sugar. Mornings seemed to be reserved exclusively for old farmers. I know this because they were all friends of mine. I spent every morning of the school year at “The Shop.”
From kindergarten to third grade, my parents left for work around 6 a.m. every morning. My younger brother, Zach, went with them, as his daycare was in the same town where my parents worked. So, grandpa would pick me up every morning at 6:15 and we’d go open the coffee shop. I spent two hours before school turning on lights, making coffee (which is a miracle, because as an adult I rely on Keurig® for consumable coffee), washing mugs and visiting with my good ol’ farmer friends.
Whenever I got bored, I would organize greeting cards, dust shelves or memorize the price of gift items. Occasionally, I’d rearrange a few things just to make it look different. If grandpa ever minded, he never mentioned it.
Grandpa always had a way about him that made everyone feel important. Anyone who walked through the door of The Shop was welcomed and valued, it never seemed to matter if they were ordering flowers for an entire wedding or buying a birthday card. He appreciated everyone.
That is one of the many things I was blessed to learn from my grandpa during all of those mornings at The Shop. I make every effort to show people how important they are, from my family and my friends, to my clients and coworkers, and my fellow crazy-busy parents. Even the person scanning my groceries at the store.
Looking back, I can now really appreciate the incredible impact he had on the person I am today. I credit my own entrepreneurial, “can-do” spirit to him! And I try to teach my sons much of what I learned from my grandpa – work hard, do your best, be nice to everyone (it’s not always easy, but do it anyhow), and if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to try it!