My 90-year-old grandfather has always been a man of few words, but he clearly expresses his values in his actions. He's a man of routine, whether it's hitting the treadmill to get his 20 minutes of cardio every day, sitting down to eat meals at the same time (always at the table with no distractions), coming home from the office at 5 o'clock on the dot (yes, he still goes to the office), and always, always finishing the day off with a big bowl of ice cream. I always marveled at his sense of groundedness and balance. In my adult life, I've appreciated his example but never really set out to emulate it until recently.
For years, I lived spontaneously: going to bed and getting up at vastly different times, never giving myself any sense of structure other than to make sure I'm at work by a certain time. I couldn't think of a meal that I didn't eat in front of a computer or standing up or while walking. And all this really took an emotional toll as I found myself feeling really anxious and scattered. On a recent trip to Mississippi to visit my grandparents, my grandfather made his way to the freezer to pull out his 1/2 gallon of mint chocolate chip Blue Bell ice cream, and pointing the battered stainless-steel ice cream scoop at me, he asked if I wanted some. I nodded and watched as he carefully and considerately scooped the bright green ice cream into two crystal bowls.
We sat together, mostly in silence. The only noise was the sound of the spoons scraping the bowl. "That's good, isn't it?" my grandfather said after a few bites. "I think I'm going back for a little more," he decided before scooting his chair back and heading toward the freezer. It may seem silly, but I really hold onto these small moments when I can connect with my grandfather, when I can appreciate what brings him joy. The next time I found myself at the grocery store in San Francisco, I bought a pint of ice cream (Jeni's Salty Caramel Ice Cream is my weakness) and inserted it into my nightly routine. After dinner, I'll sit at my table and enjoy it in silence. After hours of staring at a computer screen, it's something I really look forward to, when I can slow down, chill out, avoid technology, and mull over the day without a distraction. Thanks to my grandfather, I'm (finally) learning the importance of shaping my days with some routine and structure and, of course, treating myself after a long day's work with something simple and sweet.