My maternal grandfather (“Opa”) had a favorite phrase: There’s no life like the good life! Every time he wanted to celebrate something or someone, he would raise a glass (usually of red wine or Heineken) and enthusiastically say those words. We all loved it. So much, in fact, that we had it engraved on his tombstone.
He delighted in the fact that he grew up in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands that distinguishes itself by its own unique culture. Friesland is the only one of Holland’s 12 regions that has its own language; they do things their own way. My Opa loved that. He did things his own way as well.
By trade, Opa was an engineer with Boeing. But, I think in his heart of hearts, he was an artist. In the basement of his home, he designated a warm, cozy, well-lit space as his creative corner. There, he created drawings and richly detailed oil paintings while smoking his favorite cigars. Or sometimes a pipe. I can still smell them now.
As a child, I felt connected to my Opa through art. I, too, loved to create. While I saw him as a real artist, I was just a dabbler and a wannabe. But, he saw something in me- not talent, per se, but a love for- and genuine interest in- artistic pursuits. He bought me my first set of real artist’s supplies: a charcoal pencil and eraser…instructional drawing books…a sketch pad with heavy-weight paper…high quality colored pencils…nice paint brushes…I cherished those gifts. They were special. They were ME. Opa and I “got” each other.
He paid me a visit (in spirit) today when I was at a small neighborhood bookstore. The first thing I noticed when I walked through the door was a display of adult-friendly coloring books. Since NPR’s segment on this topic a few months ago, it seems every book shop is upping the ante. Now, we have so many choices: Want to color intricately-detailed enchanted gardens? Done. Want to fill in the lines of connect-the-dot pictures for adults? Done. Want to shade the empty spaces of gorgeous images of Paris? Done. It’s fantastic!!
After playfully thumbing through the coloring books, I browsed the used-books shelf. There I found what I was meant to find: ‘Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood’ by Koren Zailckas. I’ve heard the book is worth a read- and at a discounted price, it felt divinely orchestrated that we find each other.
When I got home, I looked up the author online. One simple quote of hers hit home: “Since I’ve quit drinking, I’m not sure I’ve found the good life, but I’ve certainly uncovered a better one.” I thought to myself: GIRL, thanks for speaking for me- and, I imagine, almost every single human in recovery.
I believe Opa would toast to that.
He was proud of his wife. He was proud of his children. He was proud of his grandkids. He was proud of his life. I, too, would like to be proud of my life. The only way that will happen is to choose sobriety and “own” my recovery. And, in the process (almost as an after-thought), live a good life.
My Opa lived a good life into his 90’s. Let’s all lead good lives- whatever good means, personally, to each of us.