Yesterday I drove home from New Orleans where I had attended a funeral for my beloved grandfather Herbert Barton, or “Granddaddy” as my cousins and all our friends referred to him. The drive provided me with some much-needed contemplation time to make sense of the many emotions that had been running through me the past week as I heard of his COVID diagnosis, waited anxiously by the phone for updates on his condition, figured out how to say goodbye to him, and eventually received the faithful call that he had passed.
One of the podcasts interviews brought clarity to my thoughts and feelings. The host interviewed Glennon Doyle about her latest book, Untamed. Among the many amazing things Glennon shared about her own personal journey of defining how she wanted to live her life in a purposeful and true way, is that she believes that the best example one can set for a child is to live your own truth as a parent. That got me thinking.
A common question people ask after someone in your family passes away is, “Were you two close?”
With Granddaddy, the answer is definitely a yes, but maybe not for the way that others may consider themselves close with a grandparent. Anyone who knew him, knew that Granddaddy was not a man of many words. A typical phone conversation consisted of the following:
(He answers the phone)
Me: Hi Granddaddy! It’s Channing.
Granddaddy: Oh hey there how are you? How’s the weather?
Me: Eh it’s been kinda rainy lately.
Granddaddy: Oh yeah that happens. Ok here’s Sue.
And that’s about it as he would promptly pass the phone off to my grandmother Sue who would continue the rest of the conversation including questions on how you are doing and filling you in on the life updates of those in New Orleans.
When it came to his actions, however, Granddaddy spoke volumes. In the way he lived his life he demonstrated the values that I hold dear now:
Family above all else.
Granddaddy held his family in high regard and remained an active presence in all our lives. He never missed a Grandparents’ Day at school. He attended every bar and bat mitzvah, graduation, wedding, and baby blessing for his many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. At each occasion he led the reciting of the Shehecheyanu, a traditional Jewish blessing of joy and gratefulness at such life events.
I will always cherish the simple memories of him picking me up from school and singing along to what my cousins and I always referred to as “Granddaddy music “ in the car on the way home. (Now the reality is that these are classic jazz songs and lots of Sinatra, but he was the only one who ever listened to it so “Granddaddy music” became a thing.)
Many parenting books and experts tell us that more than half of good parenting is simply showing. Granddaddy did just that time and time again.
Teach others what you know well.
For him that translated to Hebrew education for all of my cousins and many of the members of our temple prior to their bar and bat mitzvahs.
For me that has become something I love doing in my business. Teaching my clients how to find their ideal clients and market effectively to them in order to build their ideal business. From marketing software tutorials to sales tactics, graphic design, effective public and media relations techniques and oh so many answers to questions about using email marketing & social media for business.
When I can take a seemingly complicated marketing principle or tactic and break it down into easily digestible elements for my clients to understand and execute, then I’ve really won the day. Seeing them have that coveted “lightbulb moment” is one of my favorite parts of my business.
Have an appreciation for being well dressed.
For years (read: decades) the man would wear a suit and tie to Mardi Gras parades. Yes it sounds silly but to his credit, it made him easier to spot for his friends on the float.
While you will never see me in a ball gown at a parade, unless I’m on top of the float of course, I do love an occasion to look nice and often remind myself of my sorority’s recommendation to always “Take the extra 5” to look pulled together before leaving the house.
A meal out is an experience to be enjoyed.
Granddaddy and Sue had standing reservations at their favorite restaurant, Galatoire’s, each Friday night. Back in the day, that same reservation resided at Ruth’s Chris Steak House with the total number in the party expanding or contracting based on who would be joining them that week.
Like them, I appreciate the dining experience. Not just the food, but the overall experience of being out and conversing with others just as much as he did. Meals consist of multiple courses, each to be savored and enjoyed as heartily as the conversation at the table. This has translated quite well given my career would inevitably be built in the event industry where galas, luncheons, dinner parties, fundraisers and the like would become daily occurrences.
I love to get to know the name and personal history of the servers and bartenders at my favorite haunts. Granddaddy always had the same servers at his favorite restaurant and he knew them, as well as the owner and manager of those places, by name.
Work hard & stay engaged.
He was dedicated to his work at Temple Sinai and continued to advise, for almost 20 years after he “retired.“ Retirement to Granddaddy meant changing from doing the job to fund your lifestyle to doing the job because it gives you purpose, fulfillment and social elements to your daily life.
I definitely credit his longevity to his desire and ability to stay active and engaged with Temple Sinai happenings and its congregants – thanks in no small part to Sue, who kept their social calendar full.
Never miss Mardi Gras.
He was fiercely competitive when it came to catching Mardi Gras beads, and just as equally giving when he passed off his treasures to the nearest child. For him to thrill resided in the experience, the catching of a bead from a friend, as well as passing on that joy to the child who wanted the shiny object.
Granddaddy attended Mardi Gras parades well into his 90s, a feat I hope to accomplish myself.
A few of the other favorite things we share:
A love for Saints football – even back in the day when they were more like the ‘Aints than the Super Bowl-winning Saints we know today.
The Golden Girls. I have board games, coffee mugs, card games, favorite memes and regularly have quoted “the girls”, all thanks to Granddaddy’s love of the 80s TV show.
Oatmeal. Forever a breakfast staple in my house. (Though adult allergies have forced me to switch from his choice of half & half to almond milk in mine.)
And a good steak. Need I say more about this one? Yeah I thought not.
The man knew what he liked and made sure those he loved knew it as well.
Granddaddy exemplified a lesson about the Torah that we learned in religious school:
“It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it.“
He did just that for 98 years and we are all better for his example of a life well lived. One day I will teach my children these lessons I learned from Granddaddy. Until then, I shall attempt to follow his example and hold fast to the tree of life.