Sunday November 18th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL
Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit knows how much my grandfather’s influence has meant to me throughout my life. He was my father figure, mentor and guiding force and I always say if it weren’t for him I’d surely be dead or in prison by now. Even with his input, I almost had both of those outcomes anyway. I’ve met a lot of people in my time, but Gramps is still the king.
Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and I couldn’t help thinking about him all day. He’s been out of my life longer than he was in it, but I still feel his mark on my soul every single day I am alive. He was the wisest person I ever met, and the seeds he planted throughout my childhood have taken decades to germinate but are now in full bloom. I owe him a debt I can never repay.
Gramps spent quality time in my formative years, and taught me lesson after lesson that wasn’t always pleasant as I was learning it. He was from the ‘tough love’ school, and never held back if he thought I needed to hear or experience something. When I deserved a kick in the ass - I got it.
But when I deserved praise, he handed that out too. It made me eventually keep striving to gain his approval, and he set high standards for whatever I was going to do with my life. Maybe that’s why I’m so frequently disappointed, but I’d rather be that than the underachiever my father was.
Gramps and my father had a tumultuous relationship, and I don’t think they ever got along very well. Gramps used to tell me it was his biggest regret. He said no matter how hard he might try to reach him, he just never could. My father was a troublemaker, and stayed that way all of his life.
Gramps told me he could see I was the complete opposite, and vowed to do his best to give me the best fighting chance I could have to survive. I was five months old when he and my grandma took me in, as my mother had abandoned the family and left to apparently pursue her drug habit.
I have an older sister and brother, and they stayed with my father. I was originally going to get sent off to an orphanage, but Gramps told me later he thought it was his duty to raise me himself to make sure he knew someone was in my corner. He didn’t have to do that, and I love him for it.
Gramps was never mega rich or famous, but he did alright. He grew up in the Great Depression era, and was very ‘thrifty’ to say the least. He always looked for sales, and scraped by with cheap alternatives whenever he could. That’s just how he was, even when he could afford better things.
We became especially close in his final years as he battled cancer. Cancer always wins, and his body was totally ravaged in the end. Still, he volunteered to take new chemo drugs so as to serve as a guinea pig for future generations. Even in death, he was thinking of how to help humankind.
I sent a request to the Office of The Mayor in Milwaukee and it was accepted, making this day ‘Albert A. Dobrient Day’ in Milwaukee. Gramps was a lifelong proud Milwaukeean, so I wanted to do this in his honor as I know he’d have loved it. Very few are honored this long after passing, but Gramps was special and still is. If I can be half of who he was, I will have been a big success.