When I was a child I became convinced that I was adopted.
Saying that I was the black sheep of our family would be an understatement. Honestly I was more like the golden-magenta imaginary sheep of the family. My older sister was a gorgeous, very popular cheerleader. My little brother was friends with everyone and could talk to anyone.
What about me? Well. I was shy. The woods and imaginary world of books were my friends. I had pink glasses, metal braces and unfortunate hair. Obviously I was adopted.
One day I arrived home from school to find my grandfather waiting for me. He had heard about my very resolved adoption theory and had drove 3 hours to sort it out. While my grandmother played with her obviously biological grandchildren, my grandfather asked me to take a walk with him.
Up the extremely large hill to the top of our street we went, making small talk about school and life. It wasn’t until we headed back home that he took the time to tell me why he knew I wasn’t adopted.
Most importantly he knew I belonged to his family because I was named after him. How could I share his name if I would have been adopted?
As we walked, my feet hitting the sandy soil washed away from the oil rigs and into the street, he told me about a little about his life. He told me about how he dropped out of school to work on his parents farm. He later joined the military and married my grandmother right after he finished bootcamp. Together they traveled the United States, moving military base to military base. He was sent oversees for wars and then came back to help design military aircraft.
All of this happened to a boy from Georgia who never graduated high school. He knew I was his biological grandchild because he saw the same spirit and wisdom in me that had helped him come so far in life. That’s one of the reasons that he was so proud to share his name with me.
That day I knew I was no longer adopted mainly because of the love that he showed by that simple trip just to come talk to me.
But as I grew, I realized so much more about what he had given me.
As I got older and more mature, he shared more about his life with me and I learned more about what he had done with his life.
When I was still a child, it might be a funny story about the time he fell out of the jump seat on the back of the car and his parents didn’t notice until they got home.
When I was in middle school my grandmother pulled out a huge folder full of certificates and awards that my grandfather had been given. The boy who never graduated high school had so many honors and certificates, it was unbelievable. The folder was several inches thick and looked brand new. He never looked at them or talked about the ways he had been recognized.
In high school I told him that I had to give an oral book report on a World War 2 book. He went to his book shelf and came back with an old book. Handing me the book he told me that it would be a great topic to share in my book report. The book was about the Berlin Air Drop where the allies used an unbelievably small airstrip in the middle of Berlin to deliver supplies to the people, to keep them from starving. I devoured the book and aced the report. When I went to give the book back to him he told me that he had been part of the Berlin Air Lift. That’s the only time he told me anything about the war.
Later as a new mom I told him that I was scared about the current economy. He spent a long time telling me about life growing up in the Great Depression. He saw a bird on the telephone pole and pointing at it told me that the bird wouldn’t have been there in the Great Depression. People ate any bird or rodent that they could find. His parents farm had been what saved his family.
One day while we were visiting my daughter brought us a plastic airplane, mounted on heavy base. “Did you know your great grandfather helped design that airplane”, I told her and he just smiled. Jets are still flying today that he worked on after retiring from the military, using a computer that took up an entire room.
You see he didn’t just give me that talk that convinced me that I wasn’t adopted, he gave me a legacy.
I was named after him.
My name isn’t Bobbie just because country names were popular in the early 80’s. My name is Bobbie because I have his legacy to carry on. I will never go through the Great Depression, successfully fly fish in Montana, travel half the world with the military or design a fighter jet. But I will overcome and succeed when it seems the odds are stacked against me.
So many times throughout my life when it got hard, I’ve pictured my feet walking in that sandy soil of East Texas, walking with him on that day. With every step pictured in my head I know that I can do it.
I can do anything I need to do because I am his legacy. A man that great deserves the honor of a grandchild that does her best and doesn’t give up.
He didn’t just give me his name, he gave me his strength, his love and his legacy to carry on.