The ultimate grandfather, Colonel John McCall, is a tall, slightly overweight gentleman with white hair, a contagious laugh, and a broad smile that never disappears. His posture displays his confidence and intelligence, his hugs love and warmth. He will be eighty years old this year, but to me he seems to never age. As long as I can remember, he has been in my life, and the ultimate grandfather, full of funny stories and wisdom.
My grandfather grew up in Chicago, Illinois, in an upper middle class Italian neighborhood and attended the local all boys Catholic high school, St Vincent Ferrer, a feeder school for Notre Dame. The eldest of five siblings and the “man in charge” while his father traveled for Motorola - he was expected to care for his mother and younger brothers in his father’s absence. Academic excellence was his first priority and he never received a grade less than a B; one of his famous quotes, “you get a C for showing up.” was always a part of report card discussions as I was growing up. Despite the path “designed” for him, his scholarship lead him to The University of Dayton, where he earned an Engineering degree and an MBA thereafter. His smarts were not always viewed positively by his teachers; like many young men, he mischievous nature pushed the limits of the nuns quiet often. My grandfather still recounts the mornings and afternoons spent doing calisthenics in detention, which he jokingly referred to as “study class for exceptional students.”
My grandfather chose to apply for Officer’s Candidate School after college, another fork in the path that his parents had wished for his future. He was told his chances were slim, but surprised everyone with his acceptance into the program. As his younger siblings chose medical schools and business schools, he proudly served the United States in the Air Force - for 26 years, even through the Vietnam War - and retired as Colonel in the late 1970s. I am so very proud of my grandfather for his service to our country.
I’d have to say my grandfather is brilliant, and I truly believe that stems from his love of literature. My family jokes that he is a walking encyclopedia, and should be on Jeopardy. As a child, I could ask him anything and he had the answer, and the answer was never short and sweet. I loved his stories, and still do. He can talk for hours; occasionally losing my attention in his bundle of knowledge. If I asked about a president, the Constitution or war he recalled every who what and when. He would ask what I was studying, and supplemented my lessons with such in depth information that when my eighth grade Social Studies teacher went on maternity leave, I suggested he take her position, so my classmates could learn what really happened back then. My grandfather’s knowledge of the United States and the world extends beyond what he learned from books. He has unique gifts, like an internal GPS, and I always said that my mom and I got our sense of direction from my grandfather; he is the only person I know who can travel across the United States without the assistance of turn-by-turn directions provided by today’s navigation systems.
My Grandparents met in Dayton; my grandmother was in nursing school, and they married after graduation. They had four children born all over the US and overseas, and he guided each of his children toward their desired path of success. During his children’s younger years he coached the girls basketball team, led the cub scouts and created winning pinewood derby cars. As his kids matured to teens, he put his two cents in at the school board meetings, taught his kids to water ski, drive, and manage their way through school and sports. My mother lovingly recalls how horrified she was when he would arrive at her college unannounced; and he would invite her and her friends out to dinner or to the bookstore to buy a school jacket or gift.
When my grandfather retired from the Air Force he took a job that moved the family to Orlando. Once settled in Florida, he became a General Contractor and built many of the neighborhoods as Orlando expanded. He played a lot of golf in his free time, was very active in Sertoma, church, and Board of Directors for credit unions. Since his latest retirement only a few years ago, my grandparents take their coach to visit family and to rediscover old haunts and homes where they raised their family, and discover new places along the way.
I am blessed to say my grandfather is still around to impart his wisdom on me, and I am fortunate to have them living close enough to my college, so I can enjoy lunch or dinner once in a while and to listen to my grandfather’s stories. I am thankful for his guidance through life’s obstacles and for his encouragement and advice. Grandpa is my ultimate grandfather.