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My Grandfather

Silence is perhaps the greatest way to achieve a new perspective of the world around us. My grandfather lived each and every day of his life believing in this one sentence. Now, in a world where almost everything has become completely spoken, from talking with friends to telling your cell phone who to call, it is harder than you think. I am sure everyone in this room already knows about my love for selflessness, and my heroes who have risked their lives and freedoms for the sake of others. My grandfather was the one who first taught me about selflessness, but not in the way you would think. I am here to tell you all today about the legacy of, not only a grandparent, but a friend who taught me of the selflessness of silence and the importance of observation.

We all have that one grandparent we separate from the others and label as our “favorites.” Whether it be genetics or just personal preference, one grandparent always seems to understand better than the others, and they always seem to be right where you need them, exactly when you need them. From a young age, this was always my grandfather. Always I would look forward to the summers when we would get to visit him in Iran. When we were there, he was always the first person I hugged and the last person I waved goodbye to. His smile was contagious and though he spoke few words he seemed to know just what to say to which people at the perfect time. I never understood how he could do this until one night as we sat down for dinner.
I was about 6 at the time, and after spending the day running around in the garden with my sister I was too tired to talk. So I sat and watched everyone as they talked and laughed, and this was when I first noticed that I wasn’t the only one watching. My grandfather also sat quietly, but his silence was not just a period of pause. Instead it became a continued energy that was put into listening to others. When he found the right times of pauses or breaks he would slip a comment in, but for the most of the meal he sat in complete silence, soaking in every word. I contemplated this for the rest of the night. Soon I began to watch my grandfather more and more and as I did I learned more about him and his silence. My grandfather was a brilliant man, and normally you would think brilliant people would have quite a lot to say. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that this was the first exposure to true selflessness I had ever had. My grandfather was a brilliant man, but he was also a caring man, and he cared far more about what others had to say than what he did, and so he gave up his voice. Instead, he had learned to put all his energy into listening to others.
This was something that I never truly forgot. And, though you would think this would make my grandfather much less popular, it actually seemed to have the opposite effect. My grandfather was the superintendent of a branch of public schools around the country, and therefore was already a very respected man. His listening skills made him that much more fun to talk to and he became the man in the country who “everybody knows.” My grandfather would always take me on walks with him around the city and always we would have to stop to say hello to every person we passed by. He could hold long conversations with them by just saying a certain word or mentioning a certain musician. How he remembered what each person liked always intrigued me. I still have no idea how he could remember everybody’s names either. The silence which was so new to people, especially in boisterous Iran, was my grandfathers gift which he had mastered so eloquently that it seemed almost too natural to be real.

My grandfather died in December of 2006. I was almost 10 at the time. I was not with him when he passed away. In fact, I had not seen him since the summer and at the time he had seemed perfectly healthy to me. But my grandfather died of pancreatic cancer, which is a quick killer. I remember going to Iran the summer of 2007. When I entered the house, I instinctively drew towards my grandfathers study. I peeked in to see his desk, now clear of papers and books. Everything inside the room was cleaner, neater, and emptier, yet nothing had been removed. As I looked around I went and sat on his little bed in the corner. As I sat down I noticed something on the ground to the right of my foot; it was an oxygen tank from his final days. For some reason this reminded me of the walks we would take together, outside in silence, watching the world around us. My grandfather had always taught me that silence was a great way to see from a new perspective, but I had never thought of it as a way of communication until then. My grandfather and I would communicate through the silence, and somehow this brought us closer than any kind of conversation would have.
These days, I have gone towards my mother’s side of the family and I am quite loud and noisy, but on certain days I am silent. Those days I think of my grandfather, and all he accomplished in his lifetime. I always hoped I could be like my grandfather, not just because of his successes but because of all he was to, not only me, but my family, the village, and the country. My grandfather is and always will be my greatest, selfless and silent hero.




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