Who I am today as a 43 year old man has been shaped by a lot of people. This weekend, I realized how much I’ve been shaped by one man in particular. The picture above is of me and my Grandpa Parmenter. He’s dying and this weekend his 5 children and 13 grandchildren made the pilgrimage to Illinois to spend a few days with him and each other laughing, crying, and reminiscing about our times together. And this is how I realized how much of Who I Am has been shaped by Grandpa Parmenter.
Grandpa Parmenter took me on my first bird hunt. I still love to hunt birds and bird hunting has been a way for my son and I to bond, but that alone isn’t what shaped me in the fields of Illinois. When Grandpa was taking me bird hunting in my junior high and high school years, he was developing in me a deep love of being outdoors, an awareness of the importance of conserving wild and scenic places for outdoor recreation, and the value of sharing time outside with family and friends as a way to bond, and the satisfaction in harvesting the food you eat. This has manifested itself in the priority our family has placed on spending time together hiking, camping, biking, AND hunting outdoors together. It has influenced my interest in being involved conservation minded organizations like the Carolina Raptor Center and the U.S. National Whitewater Center and local food organizations like Carolina Farm Trust. It has greatly impacted Who I Am.
The first question Grandpa Parmenter asked me every time I saw him from the time I was around 7 or 8 years old was: “What are you reading?” I continue to be an avid reader who is married to an avid reader and we are raising two avid readers. Not only did this question hold me accountable to reading interesting books, but it instilled in me a lifelong love of learning. I know that I still have a lot to learn and though school is probably over for me, I work hard to learn every day. My Grandpa has only a few days left on this planet, but he has four books on the end table next to his chair that he is reading and when I was telling him today about a book I was reading he said “I’m gonna have to get that one and check it out.” Yes, I’ve adopted his love of history, particularly of the American Civil War, but the value of being a lifelong learner is what is most important and what has been passed on through me to my children. It has greatly impacted Who I Am.
Perhaps the greatest gift my Grandpa Parmenter has given me is a belief that my faith starts and ends with loving, serving, and caring for all people. My grandfather has modeled a life for me rooted in a belief in Jesus Christ but not tied to dogma. He has shown me that we are called to take care of the less fortunate in this world whenever we have an opportunity, regardless of their background or life circumstance. And he has been an example of how your faith can morph, grow, and change over the course of your life. In short, he has lived out the command to “love one another as we were first loved.” It has greatly impacted Who I Am.
I look like a Searby and my last name is Searby, but my Grandpa Parmenter has had as much influence on the man I am today as any other person. He has impacted ALL of the other significant men in my life – my own father, my uncles, my brother, and my cousins and they have all impacted me. I count myself among the most fortunate on this earth right now to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and I am grateful that we had just a few more precious moments together this weekend. I love you Grandpa and I promise that the impact you’ve had on me will be passed on to my son and generations to come.