I loved my Grandpa Jack. He smoked. He drank. He enjoyed his coffee. And….he was perhaps the best Mormon I have ever known. He didn’t go to church. I never really had any long conversation with him. But, I knew the stories. He was a man’s man. Hardworking and generous.
Today, I had a conversation with a Facebook friend. He shared a story about his grandpa. It brought tears as I realized that the character of his grandfather had a lot in common with my Grandpa Jack.
My friend’s name is Ben Jarvis and here’s his grandpa’s story.
Twenty-two years ago, when I was talking to my 84 year-old, hard scrabble grandpa about being gay. He said he didn’t raise his kids or grandkids to be second class citizens. He expected me to fight for my rights, and when that was done, go fight for the rights of others…and to take on the world! He was quite progressive for a man from SLC and the Uintah Basin.
Grandpa was very active in his ward, but he took the church on his own terms and always asserted his individuality and had strong sense of right and wrong. He once clocked the stake president for stealing water out of turn. When the stake president came to, he had a shovel blade on his neck, with my grandfather, then an angry 12-year old, telling him the farm relied on water and he didn’t take kindly to water thieves. That would have been around 1921 or 1922.
In 1991, Gramp and I were working in his garden. He started in on the church and about how some people get caught up in the temple or the idea they need to go somewhere to find God. He then talked about the miracle of life and how he planted seeds that magically grew. “I don’t need to go to the temple to be with God. God is right here in the dirt.” Those were the words of a lifelong farmer.
My family got a lot of things right. I had the good fortune to come out to three of my grandparents; my maternal grandfather passed away before I came out. My parents were big proponents of being honest about who we are, and encouraged LGBT people to come out and be visible. When my nephew learned to speak and began presenting as female, mom and dad, along with my sister, embraced her and accepted her transition. My niece is now five years old. Mom passed away last year, her granddaughter will grow up knowing her nana knew her, loved her, and was thrilled to have her as a granddaughter. We aren’t talking tolerance or tepid accommodation. We are talking about unbridled love, acceptance, and the anticipation of a life filled with adventure, just like any of mom and dad’s other grandchildren.
I still can’t read this story without tearing up at the beauty of this whole family. ‘Fight for your rights and then go fight for the rights of others.’ What an amazing legacy from Grandpa Jarvis. A great man who found God in the dirt.
Ben, thank you, my friend, for sharing.