Disclaimer: This is 100% pure fiction, a story that begged to be written as I woke up one morning. I never knew either of my grandfathers and I don’t have any kids.
Once upon a time, on a cold December Eve, when I was a boy of five, the snow was gently falling outside, blanketing the Earth in a fluffy white blanket, just like the blankets of my bed. Snuggled warmly inside, grandpa closed the book he was reading to me–I believe it was called Honest Abe–and he kissed my forehead. With a child’s delicate innocence, I asked him, “Who was Abe Lincoln?”
Grandpa smiled at me with his wrinkled old eyes, “Abe Lincoln was somebody. He freed the slaves. He made a lot of people understand what being human is all about.”
Grandpa read stories to me every night, just like that night. Stories of loving and caring, gentleness and humility. He patiently answered my endless childish questions with all the wisdom his years had to offer, and in his own way, you might even say he taught me what being human is all about. I knew his American colloquialism, “somebody” meant “somebody special,” but to a five-year-old, Grandpas are special and people like Abe Lincoln, well, they’re nobody. So I asked my grandpa a simple question. “Why aren’t you somebody, Grandpa?”
I’ll never forget his answer. He looked put the book down and tucked the covers around my warm body. He gave me another warm smile and spoke to me with love. “You’re such a curious young boy,” he said, “Let me tell you why.”
“Father Flannigan decided that praying to God and counseling people were more important than having a family, so he’s somebody. I could have gone into the Seminary and become a famous priest too. I had the devotion and the love for God, but I decided that the way to please God was to have kids and teach them what was important. So I’m nobody.”
“Old man Gates started a company called Microsoft right about the time I turned twenty. He built an empire by programming computers to be useful to people. By the time I was thirty-five, he was the richest man in the world, so he’s somebody. I could have been the richest man in the world too. I had the programming skills, the drive, and the know-how, but I decided people were more important than computers, so I’m nobody.”
“Right about the time I was thirty, President Brenner decided that politics was more important than finding the love of his life. Now he’s all alone, but he’s the most powerful man in the world, so he’s somebody. I could have been the President of the United States too. I worked for the government for a while and knew how to play all the political games. But I decided to find the love of my life instead–your grandmother–so I’m nobody.”
“I didn’t know I had a grandmother.”
“She died before you were born.”
“But Grandpa, I think you’re the most important person in the whole world. Why doesn’t anyone else?”
He hugged me as tightly as he could through the covers. Then he whispered into my ear, “I’ll tell you a secret. They think it’s important to be rich, but you and I know different. You and I know a hug’s worth more than all the money in the world. They think it’s important to be famous, but you and I know it’s more important to be wise. They think it’s important to be powerful and strong and pretty, but you and I know it’s more important to be gentle and peaceful and loving. They think it’s important to hear their own name, but you and I know listening for God’s voice is more important than hearing your own.”
“Why doesn’t somebody tell them?” I asked.
“Snuggle-Bear,” he said, “It’s too late for me to tell them, but you’ve still got your whole life ahead of you. You can decide right now what’s important in life. I’ve already made my choices. And you know what I decided?”
“To be right here with you. After all, important people like President Brenner don’t have time to read to their grandchildren. They don't have Snuggle-Bears.” He bend down and kissed my forehead again.
“Grandpa, when I grow up, I want to be a ‘nobody’ just like you. I want to get married, raise a family, and love them too. I want to teach my sons and daughters that loving is more important than fame or fortune. I want to teach the world that being nobody is more important than being somebody.”
“You do that, son.” He stroked his chin. “Just remember: It’s never too late to be yourself.”
I settled back into the cosiness of my bed and prepared for sleep as Grandpa left.
Just then, my father opened my bedroom door and poked his head inside. Scanning the room with his eyes, he asked, “Who were you talking to?”
He scanned the room again. “Your Grandpa was a special man, but he’s in a better place now. He’s with Grandma in heaven.”
“He still reads to me every night.” I said.
“He does?” He sounded surprised. “What does he say to you?”
“He said that it’s never too late to be yourself. He calls me his Snuggle-Bear.”
Dad’s head slumped down to touch his hand that held onto the door frame. His voice started to crack as he said, “He used to call me that when I was your age. Your grandpa was a very special man.” As my dad turned his face to leave, I could see a glint of light from a tear cast by the light of the hallway. “Good night, son.” and he closed the door.