5 Things My Grandpa Taught Me That Will Change Your Life

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Chris Dessi's Grandfather

5 Things My Grandpa Taught Me That Will Change Your Life

I woke up in pain. I was stiff and cranky. I had just spent the night sleeping on the floor at my Grandparent’s house. I was there because my Grandfather (Papa) had just been sent home from the hospital. He wasn’t doing well. Hospice care had just started. My Grandmother was overwhelmed, so the whole family took shifts. That morning, I entered Papa’s room to open the blinds, and I said “Good morning Papa!”

He replied from his bed “good morning.”

Those would be his last words. That evening Papa passed away. It was 16 years ago today.

I think of him every day. My daughters, Talia 5 and Olivia 3, address him by name. I pick them up so they can kiss his photo hanging in the hallway of my home. I keep him alive by telling funny stories, and sharing his life lessons. I miss him everyday. I especially miss him today.

Growing up, my brother and I spent a great deal of time with Papa. We were lucky that they lived close by. They were at our house everyday after school. They helped with homework, taught us life lessons, and generally helped to raise us.

I loved every single moment in his presence. He taught me so much. When he would drive me to kindergarten he would ask me to pick a subject I was curious about. He would then spend the entire car ride trying his best to teach me every single thing he knew about that topic. I’ve learned so much from him, but here are five things that stick out:

1. Get comfortable in a suit and tie

I can close my eyes flip through a mental rolodex of Papa’s entire wardrobe. He wasn’t a wealthy man, but he took great care of himself and his clothes. He always looked presentable and handsome. He stressed the importance of good grooming. He taught my brother and I how to dress like men, and that a suit is not an enemy. We dressed for holidays. We had reverence for the occasion because he showed us how. Today I believe it’s set me apart from hoodie wearing executives in social media.

I got comfortable in a suit and tie. You should too.

2. Family first

Every Christmas eve Papa would pull my brother Mark and I aside for a toast. We would listen, digest and understand his advice. We drank it up. He would raise his glass and say “boy’s when I pass away, toast me, & toast my life. I’m the luckiest and wealthiest man in the world because of my family.”

He appreciated his family. You should too.

3. Appreciate the arts

Legend goes that when Papa was a boy he would practice the piano for 5 hours a day. He was a concert pianist, classically trained and college educated during the great depression. An enigma. Later in life he broke his thumb boxing and his piano career was never the same. He would sit me down and ask me to join him listening to classical music. He would ask me to listen closely and find the violin playing within the Orchestra. “Do you hear that Christopher? Can you hear it? Hear the crescendo?” I would lean in, desperate to hear just the violin through the cacophony of an Orchestra. I could never find it. Until one day, I did. And it blew my mind. I was able to hear the layers to the music. I was gobsmacked. I had a new appreciation for classical music that I’ve never lost. He taught me to appreciate the joy of true artistry.

You should listen closely to classical music. It will blow your mind.

4. Look Up

I was 19 when I was accepted to the Erasmus program at Loyola University to study for a year abroad in Leuven, Belgium. I went to visit Papa the day before I left to say goodbye. I said “what’s the one piece of advice that I need before I leave Papa?” He thought about it, and said “look up.” I took his advice to heart. Whenever life seems to be getting the best of me, I slow down, and look up. I look around and soak in the world around me. It works every time.

Want to see the world? Slow down, and look up. You’ll be amazed at what wonders you’ll see.

5. The loudest guy in the room is usually the least interesting

My parents surprised Papa with a 70th birthday party. In video from that day you can observe Papa was sitting quietly in the corner of the living room. He was surrounded by his family. My mother at his feet. His son, my Uncle Bill to his side. Cousins, grandchildren all surrounding him. He was a soft spoken man. Respectful. Articulate. Introspective. The quietest guy in the room most times. Yet everyone was drawn to him. He was not filled with bombast. He was always the smartest guy in the room. He never demanded your attention, but he always had it.

Want to be more interesting? Close your mouth. Breathe, look around and listen.

I love you Papa.


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