Where to Find Grace: A Lesson Learned by Eating Slowly

Philosophy: Slow down and keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers.

Lunchbox got his first taste of baby food a couple weeks ago. It was a huge hit. After he got the hang of the spoon and the rhythm of his tongue down, the little chow hound was off to the races. I couldn’t shovel it in fast enough.

Tyler has my last name and I see a lot of Doak in him. He’s fairly laid back. He likes to study things and watch them work. He’s happy. His happiness makes me happy. It’s contagious.

The speed at which he eats, however, is not Doak, I learned. Since I lost my grandfathers, I find them with me in the strangest, most subtle places. My Grandpa Doak was the absolute slowest eater I think anyone ever saw, and I loved it.

He was always the last one to finish and everyone knew it. My dad is the same way. When my dad was a baby, it took him so long to eat, he fell asleep. My grandma had to flick the bottom of his feet to keep him awake.

I had the honor of delivering the eulogy at my grandpa’s funeral. It was the second one I’d done in four months. Writing those words was quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve done and not for the reasons you might think.

It’s always hard to say goodbye. We trick ourselves into thinking we have time; that there will be tomorrow to learn what we need from the ones we love most. We’re also experts at fooling ourselves.

Goodbye was only part of the hard part. The worst of it was trying to take the huge feelings a man of his caliber created in my heart – in all our hearts- and put them into words on paper. I did my best.

What lasts when a person passes away are the lessons they leave. The way they carry on is through the tools we use that were once theirs. My grandpa left me with so many beautiful things in my head, my heart and my home.

I have some of his screwdrivers and a rake that was his. I have a clock he made and an Acme Thunder whistle that was in his drawer, but the only thing I truly wanted was a framed picture.

It was a reprint of Grace by Eric Enstrom. I remembered seeing it hang over his kitchen table when I was little and when I think of him, it’s what I picture. It’s just a man, with a book, praying over bread. It’s that simple. So is life according to Bob Doak.

It’s not, at least life doesn’t feel that simple, but he made it look that way. His philosophy was not complicated. Drink your coffee black. Find the right tool for the job and get to work. Take your time when you eat and especially when you cut in with a paint brush. Keep your hands steady with your pen, hammer and prayers. Your age does not limit you. Wear out your Bible and break in your patience.

I wish my kids got the chance to learn from him the way my cousins and I did. I wish they were old enough to have fun with him and to watch him tinker with things until he achieved a level of perfection only he could master. I wish they knew that when he passed, so did a little bit of the last generation of grace. They may never get to see that anywhere else.

I could let that make me sad. I don’t. Instead, I try to pass a little Bob Doak onto them through me. Afterall, we’re part of him. When I use his tools, I show them. When they’re fascinated by watching me paint or strip wallpaper, I tell them how good Papa Bob used to be with his paint brush (my version of painting includes swearing and taping, his did not).

Lately, though, I find him the most when I start wishing karma would get to work. When life feels especially unfair and I have a second to stop and think about how I got to where I am right now, I try to stop myself from wanting to make the people who hurt me, hurt just as bad. I think about Grace.

I’m able to pray and I have things to pray for. That’s my grace. That was Grandpa’s grace. That’s the grace I find in Elise’s tenacity, Jack’s quirks and Tyler’s smile. I get to teach them all about life and there’s no better lessons than the one’s Grandpa left with me.

One thing he never missed was my birthday. I got a card every single year, right on time. I remember thinking on one of our trips to see him at the hospital that it would be the first year in 32 I wouldn’t get a card from him. I had a hard time accepting that. He died three weeks after my birthday.

It wasn’t long after that, I grabbed the mail one day and saw a pink envelope with his handwriting on the front. It was my birthday card. He signed it in the hospital, my uncle mailed it and somehow, it took that long to get to me. I prefer to think that it was just a little wink from him to show me he was with me.

Tyler’s high chair sits underneath my Grace print. I feed him his baby food there and tell him to slow down. I tell him dinner is nothing to rush through.  I see it every time I feed him, every time I head out the back door to leave and start another day. It reminds me when I start to lose my place or patience, there is grace everywhere and it’s so simple to find if you look.

Just like Bob Doak.

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