102 Things I Learned from Grandpa

102 Things I Learned from Grandpa

Today would have been my grandpa’s 102nd birthday. He was 101 and 301 days old when he died this past March. I have introduced you to my grandpa before as he was the best example of a human I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We had his celebration of life this past week and I thought I would share my final top 102 lessons I learned from grandpa. I’m certain there are more than this list, but I’ll be lucky to live up to 50 of them, so I had to stop.

  1. Be kind
  2. Always keep moving
  3. It is important to count the 1/2 years once you get to 100
  4. Exercise daily
  5. Take time for others
  6. A firm handshake with eye contact means respect and always show respect
  7. Know how to bait a hook because fishing is important work
  8. Be generous, even if it is thankless
  9. It is not a party if you aren’t wearing harem pants and lipstick (OK, that was only once from what I can tell, but I think it is sage advice anyway)
  10. There is always time to help someone
  11. If there are enough berries in the woods, you can pick them alongside the bears
  12. A little-old-lady can be 15 years your junior but if she is acting older than you she is still a little-old-lady
  13. Wiser’s whiskey is medicinal with tonic (because it helps with leg cramps)
  14. Build community
  15. You can always find men willing to put in a hard day’s work and share a meal at the Salvation Army
  16. Always give back. Be of service
  17. Animals give you life
  18. Travel
  19. Skinny dipping is good for your health, especially if you have someone take pictures and then your granddaughter finds them and can’t unsee them. That is just good fun and I know you were watching me find them, Grandpa. Good one.
  20. A sauna a day keeps the doctor away
  21. If you dodge your first bullet at age 2, you are likely to live past 100 because nothing will get you
  22. It is possible to age backwards if you think young
  23. Being liked is not as important as liking others
  24. Hitchhikers don’t have to be serial killers, sometimes they just need a lift to a doctor’s appointment, some company in the waiting room, and a meal before a ride home
  25. It is possible to have a temper tantrum in your 100th year–you deserve it if your daughter hides your whiskey (For the record Grandpa, I’m glad you changed your mind about moving and not telling anyone where you were planning to live.)
  26. Love deeply
  27. Smile at strangers (we call these 5-second friends at our house)
  28. Pancakes are a complete meal
  29. God is love, worship Him
  30. If you are not having a good day today, tomorrow will be good
  31. More people love you than you ever thought could
  32. Learn to use your hands
  33. Retirement at 95 is about right
  34. You can tell the same jokes over and over and someone will laugh
  35. Don’t ask a 10-year-old boy to teach you your first English words or they are likely to be, “Kiss my Ass.”
  36. Plaid goes with plaid
  37. Always carry a comb
  38. There are very few things you can’t do without a glass in your hand except maybe operating a chainsaw
  39. Play
  40. You are never too old to make new friends
  41. You never have to outgrow being a kid
  42. Girls can do anything
  43. Dance (I danced with my grandpa when he was 101)
  44. Keep reading even when you need a magnifying glass
  45. You aren’t fooling anyone, we know you didn’t hear us but watching you fake it was fun, so go ahead and fake it
  46. Grandkids take years off your life
  47. Wear comfortable shoes
  48. Learn how to say ‘I love you’ and sprinkle it liberally. (I taught grandpa this skill when we were living overseas. It took him several months until he was able to say it back to me. The last time I saw him, he said it first.)
  49. Pick blueberries clean
  50. Be outside
  51. Always have a dog treat in your pocket
  52. Make everyone feel like they are important and special
  53. Don’t mourn when you can celebrate
  54. Make children smile
  55. Never drink before happy hour
  56. Eat leftovers
  57. Share
  58. Teaching kids how to swear is really funny if it is part of a joke that that kid will later share with the family
  59. If the chair spins, then sit and spin dammit
  60. (KonMari look away) Never throw away a picture, even if you don’t remember who is in it. You could find gems like me in the original puffy shirt
  61. The best joke is a dirty joke
  62. Kippis is the same as cheers in Finn and if you know no other Finnish words, know that one
  63. Grit. Get some
  64. It doesn’t matter how ugly your couch is, so long as it is comfortable enough for two
  65. Learn the words to the song, “The Winnipeg Whore”–it’s a crowd pleaser
  66. Suolakala–pronounced soo-ala-kala, is not just for funerals (sour rye bread with cured salt fish, dill and green onions)
  67. Go to bed early and wake up in time to make breakfast for others
  68. Work hard
  69. Always know where your glasses are
  70. Teach
  71. Get dressed for company every day
  72. Walk instead of taking the car
  73. Coffee is important
  74. Your competition isn’t your competition if you trained them. They are your pride
  75. You are never too old to learn
  76. Men can cook too
  77. You are not as hungry as you think you are
  78. Happiness comes from watching people you love be happy
  79. Invest in education first
  80. Openly acknowledge others
  81. Being good parents makes the world a better place
  82. Do it yourself–don’t wait for others to help or do something for you
  83. Keep promises
  84. Spend your money wisely
  85. Always find out what someone wants and bring it with you. Grandpa brought Chicklets to the kids when he went away and they always remembered his name and gathered around him for more on his return
  86. Laugh every day
  87. Sponsor a child
  88. Wear an undershirt when it is cold
  89. It is possible to live past 101 and never get grey hair
  90. You can hold one grudge–but just one
  91. Stretch
  92. Always have a hanky or tissue handy
  93. Wear a belt
  94. Hug hard
  95. When your granddaughter goes through your pants when you are gone, make sure you don’t leave her a $20 in the pockets, it will make her laugh trying to find one
  96. Write letters by hand
  97. If you keep the airplane bottles of Wiser’s in your pocket, they come in handy when you are out and your drink isn’t gold enough. Also, someone will leave one on your gravesite the day you are buried and make everyone laugh.
  98. Be amazed every day
  99. Listen
  100. Don’t worry about what others think of you
  101. Put family first and make sure everyone in the family knows this is expected
  102. You can always be nicer, kinder, more generous, more giving, harder working, and more fun, but you can’t take it with you so pass it on.

I also learned that I am more like my grandpa than I had realized. The day before his celebration of life I saw a family waiting outside the drugstore. I asked them when the store opened and it wasn’t for 45 minutes. They had obviously walked and the father said, “Where am I going to get a sippy cup?” I was headed to Walmart since the drug store was closed and offered to pick up what he needed. I did, returned to hand it to him and was on my way. My family asked, “That was nice, but why did you do that when you had so much to do today?” After the funeral, it was crystal clear. Grandpa would have done it and I am carrying on his tradition.

Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you too.

What have you learned from your grandparents? Share your grandpa wisdom.


  1. He sounds like a real hoot and he passed that along to you as well! I am sorry for your loss though.

  2. You my darling are the best example of what a great teacher Grandpa was. He was so loving and he shared this love with everyone he met but first his family. You are his best legacy.

  3. This is one of the most beautiful tributes I’ve ever read. Lots of tears and giggles would have gone into writing those memories and lots of sound advice to live by. As I read through, I see how you are a lot like your grandpa. How lucky you were to have eachother.

  4. Oh, I’m sure it would make him so happy to see you honor him here this way! And I smiled at #1. It was my mother’s favorite thing to say to me . . .

  5. Christine Munro : May 22, 2019 at 4:15 am

    What a fantastic tribute to your Grandfather. He seemed like one special man to have left such an impact on you. Cheers to him wherever he may be now.

  6. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing person, and a wise one, and while I’m enjoying this tribute here and now I’m also looking forward to next year when you share 103 things you learned from him.
    Shortly before my grandfather died, when a stroke had affected his ability to speak, is that he could still say “fiddlesticks”, and for him that was a swear word.
    There’s something I learned from him: “fiddlesticks” is a perfectly good swear word.
    Christopher recently posted…Epic Break.My Profile

  7. I would have loved to have a conversation with your grandfather. If I remember right, one of his sayings was “safe schmafe”. That’s my personal favorite. However, I’d also like to learn the words to the song, “The Winnipeg Whore”. Can you teach it to me?
    Arionis recently posted…One In A Million Shot(s)My Profile

    • He had a full ‘stag album,’ but here are the words to The Winnipeg Whore for your amusement. I’m telling you, she be a bargain!

      My first trip up the Chippeway River,
      My first time to Canadian shore,
      There I met a young Miss Flannegan,
      Commonly known as a Winnipeg Whore.

      “Well”, said she to me, “I like your riggin’,
      Let me sit upon your knee,
      If you want a little lovin’
      A Dollar and a half Is my usual fee”.

      Well, up run the whores and the sons o bitches,
      Up to the number of forty or more,
      Grabbed my shirt, my shoes, and my britches,
      And I went a high-tailin’ outta that door

      Well, in Winnipeg I learned my lesson,
      Learned it good cause I learned it there.
      If you wanna visit a Winnipeg whore, boys,
      Better make sure that you visit her bare!

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