An Unfortunate Sober Break in the List

Normally, you'd find the next in my Top 100 Songs of My Lifetime list here.  But I wanted to take some time to talk about something actually important.  As much fun as I've had writing these entries and as seriously as I've taken them, the whole thing pales in comparison to hearing that my grandpa, Joe Bodolay, died this morning at the age of 97.  I wanted to tell the world (or at least as much of the world that would actually read this) how much he meant to me and everyone else.

He was born in Hungary, but his family moved to the United States when he was young so they could pursue their own American dream.  They were processed into the U.S. through Ellis Island, eventually landing in Ohio.  He met the love of his life, my grandma Winnie, and had three children.  My mom, Joyce was the first, followed by my aunt Barbara and finally my uncle Joe.  He worked as a mechanic for Greyhound bus, getting countless numbers of buses back on the street to take Americans from here to there.  He worked hard every day, but was also a kind and gentle man, who loved his family as much as any man could.  In a generation where men were told to hold emotion in and live a serious life, where smiles were hard to come by and compliments even rarer, Joe Bodolay bucked the trend with all of his being.

A smile was always on his face.  A warm handshake soon followed.  Kind words then poured out, brightening your day.  If he knew you for longer than ten minutes, a hug wasn't far behind.  He was married to my grandma for 72 years, a lifetime in itself.  He loved her so much that he couldn't even contain it.  He was constantly holding her hand, smiling at her, throwing buckets and buckets of love her way.  So much so that it spilled over to the rest of us.  He raised his children to love life and everyone else, because to not do so was a waste of time.  Why be a jerk to people when you can make your day and their day better?  That was his driving philosophy.  My mom later boiled it down to what became her philosophy:  "It doesn't cost anything to be nice."

The first game of real golf I played with my grandpa, a not very good golfer who taught me nothing about the game, other than to enjoy myself with every shot, good or bad.  He smiled when he hit a good shot, laughed out loud at the bad ones and I never, ever, heard him raise his voice in anger.  As a ten year-old, he let me drive the golf cart, where I felt like a real grown up.  He always treated us kids with respect, never talking down to us just because of our age.

Grandpa Joe influenced me more than any other man in my life (sorry, Dad, but it's true).  He taught me how to be a great husband, father, but most of all, a great person.  If anyone has anything nice to say about me, the credit goes first to my mom, and then to Grandpa.  We took both of our sons to see Grandma and Grandpa very soon after they were born, and many other times, because I wanted some Grandma & Grandpa juice to rub off on our boys.  Whenever our boys were there, Grandpa just couldn't wipe the smile off of his face.  He just loved to watch them play with each other and hug their great-Grandma.

I was able to tell both him and my Grandma that they were my inspiration as a husband and wife team.  If my wife, Jennifer and I were able to live our lives as they had, we'd both couldn't be happier.  I tell my wife at least a dozen times a day that I lover her.  With Ty and Ethan, it's even more.  And the reason I'm comfortable enough to do that is because Grandpa showed me how.  Most of all, though, he taught me not to be embarrassed to let people know that I loved them.  It wasn't a sign of weakness, it was the ultimate sign of strength.  He was so comfortable with himself and his feelings that he never felt the need to hold them in.

Most of you never knew my Grandpa, and that's a real shame.  He made the lives of anyone who spent any real time with him better.  If the true measure of a life is whether or not the world was a better (or worse) place because you were in it, then Grandpa is a first ballot Hall-Of-Famer person.  I hope this might inspire some of you to know more about people in your lives who are committed to making the world a better place, one small act or interaction at a time.

We'll all miss you, Grandpa.  You showed me how to live a life that's worth telling people about, so I'm going to tell people about yours.  For those of us who believe in heaven, enjoy your time there.  You've earned it in spades.  Give Mom, Dad & Aunt Barbara a hug and kiss for me.

To steal that great line from Gladiator, I will see you again, but not yet..... not yet.

I'll start posting more entries for my list in a couple of weeks.

 Here are some pictures.....

Grandpa's birthday in 1987.  Right before this picture was taken, I told Grandpa that since I was a huge Dodgers fan, he'd better hold on tight to that jacket or else I might steal it (just in case you don't know me, I was kidding, you know...).

July 2006.  This is Grandpa holding my eldest son's hand.  Ty was the first great-grandchild and Grandpa was so excited every time we'd visit.  Both Ty and his little brother, Ethan, got to visit Grandpa quite a few times since their births, which was great.

May 2009.  Grandpa and Ethan.  Grandpa really loved Ethan's pretty blue eyes and couldn't stop smiling watching Ethan run around and play.

May 2009 as well.  (L to R: Grandpa, Ethan, Jennifer (standing), Kent (kneeling), Todd (sitting), Joey (but he wants you to call him Joe now), Scott, Ty (sitting on Scott's lap), Margie, Joe & Grandma)
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