Lessons from my grandfather

Palmer Flournoy with Edna Wyant Flournoy & Helen Wyant, 1920

Today marks my materal grandfather’s birthday. His name was Palmer Chester Flournoy and he was born in 1889 in Albany, New York. When he was still a baby, his father, a railroad conductor, was killed in a tragic railway accident. My great-grandmother moved her family – my grandfather and his older sister, back to Stanbery, Missouri to live  with my great-grandmother’s family – the Palmers.

My Grandfather only attended school until he was in about 8th grade; after that he went to work. He was well-spoken and a fabulous story-teller. And from family stories, we know he was a trickster and strong-willed. And intelligent – he was respected as honest and fair.

One of the things I most remember him telling me was that I could “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” He always spoke respectfully – how I wish I could remember that more often. Once when his butter pecan ice cream came without pecans, he respectfully wrote to the corporate headquarters and in a short time not only  received a replacement half-gallon of butter pecan, but also received a second half-gallon. I try to remember that when write a letter of complaint. My grandfather was an amazing expert in respectfully expressing that something was amiss.

The most important lesson my grandfather taught me was to live in dignity, even when life is throwing you curve balls. Macular degeneration and cataracts took my grandfather’s sight. Even though low-vision robbed him of reading, or driving I don’t think I ever heard him complain. He had an outgoing nature, and if he couldn’t figure out which coins to use when paying for something, he simply asked the clerk to help pick out the coins. When I was in my twenties, he rode buses or walked everywhere in Daytona Beach; whenever one of us came to visit in Daytona, he could be counted on to meet us at the airport. And to see us off. Life may have robbed him of vision, but it took nothing else from his great enjoyment of life.

I think a lot about my Grandfather’s great capacity for enjoying life despite what hardships are encountered. And hope that as I grow older, I will always remember lessons learned from a real gentleman – in all senses of the word.

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