Badass Grandpa

The Blueprint to Be a Badass Yourself

Editor’s note:  Arden Ballard is a contributor who works as a Physician Assistant in New Orleans.  He’s a huge Saints fan, and is a fellow fraternity brother I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person yet.  I hope you enjoy his blog as much as I have.


I never really knew my grandfather. The only memory I have is of him sitting comfortably in his Lazy Boy—cigarette in one hand, beverage in the other, oxygen tank sitting next to his favorite seat (I’m thankful I even remember this, considering the house could have exploded…) He smiled at me, too weak to talk at this point. The cancer spread from his lungs into his bones and brain, and he passed on not long after this memory fades. My family told me a lot of things about him: I was told that he adored me, that he never cared for children before I came around, that he loved his scotch and Marlboro Reds.  But, it was his legacy remembered by others that truly inspired me to be like the man I never truly knew.

As time grew on, I met many of my Grandfather’s friends and work colleagues. They would come up to me at church, in the local small town grocery store, at the country club—It was easy for them to make the connection as we looked strikingly alike—they would pour out to me about what a fine man he was. Complete strangers would light up their wrinkled faces when speaking of him. They would say things like, “Your grandfather helped my business become the success that it is today” or “He was such a great listener”. They would speak of his wisdom and how everyone in a room would turn to him for his opinion. I also heard a lot about his golf game (his holes in one became like the fish tales told around the family dinner table. Those golf holes kept getting longer and more treacherous as I grew older.) I gathered the opinion that he was a man of few words, but each word he spoke was invaluable to the lucky few who heard them.

The stories of my grandfather began to dwindle with time and the passing of those who loved him. But as the encounters ceased, the significance of each story grew in my mind. I was on a mission: Not only did I feel an overwhelming responsibility to uphold my grandfather’s name (literally and figuratively… I was named after him), but I also felt like I had the blueprint for doing so.

What do you want to be remembered by? More specifically, if you had someone interview your old high school friends, your college buddies, your past relationship partners about you and asked them their fond memories about you and your character, what would they say? Would they sing your praises, talking about how you were a compassionate leader that earned respect from his peers? Or would they mention some story about how you disgraced or embarrassed them in a drunken escapade? Would your college girlfriend talk about your integrity and how chivalrous you were? Or would they mention how you cheated on her with her sorority sister?

I know for a fact there are a few people who wouldn’t have the fondest memories of me. What if they saw my grandson at the grocery store 60 years from now; what would they say about me? What would my grandfather think of me? This is not just about first impressions; rather, it’s about how you live your life everyday and the impact you have on others around you. Shoulders back, chin up, place one foot in front of the other in attempt to be the best you one could possibly be. When you’re having a bad day, or if someone points something out in your character that may need a little work, remember that little boy in the grocery store. What would you want said about you to your grandson?

As I look back, I was only 5 years old when he sat there, smiling at me, telling me through his eyes “grow up to be a good man, ok?”. I want his legacy to live on through me, and that means I have big shoes to fill. Who is going to be your inspiration? Whether living or gone, relative or stranger… find someone of that impeccable character to strive to emulate. Don’t BE them, but rather take those great qualities and implement them into your life. A mentor like this could be just what you need to go from a “decent guy” to a memorable man of character.

Be sure to read more about leaving a legacy through your father:

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