All my grandparents are gone. And now that I’m older I miss them. As children we are too young to treasure them the way they deserve to be treasured. We are too young to understand the meaning and stories in the deep crevices on their faces.
As a child I treasured one Grandma for gum, late night milk-shakes, and Moon-Drops perfume; the other for old Victorian glamour, a garden of fragrant roses, and cookies that were really more like heavenly oatmeal raisin cakes. I treasured one Grandpa for loving the unloved by opening a rescue-mission and singing songs about anything going on, almost like a rapper; and the other Grandpa… well I’m not sure why I treasured him, he was kinda stern and scary with his thick black-rimmed glasses – but I still loved him. I tried to get close to him, but it always felt dangerous; like walking on glass just to hug grandpa.
As an adult, I can see stories seeping out of my childhood memories, like sweet sap from a matured maple. There are things I’m just starting to figure out. The unintended legacies they left behind. The legacies that leave me with unanswered “whys”.
The grandparents on my father’s side came from a rather stodgy Christian faith that I am very proud of because it is my heritage, yet it does not resonate with my current devotion to God. In fact, going to church with them was a solemn event. Expressions of joy were rare. No one clapped after hymns, not even solos gained applause. And it was the theme of my grandfather’s heart.
When I was little my dad would say to my brother, “Son, do you know why I call you ‘sun’? It’s because you are the light of my life”. Dad was determined to not follow in his fathers steps. Dad told my brother he loved him, often; even when my brother was un-lovable.
From my shoes, I can see that my dad and grandpa (his father) never had the type of relationship fathers and sons should have. It seemed distant and cold. From my shoes, Grandpa never knew how to show love. He was a hurt man. He was a good man, a religious man, a man deeply involved with church and missions, and a philanthropist that gave more to others than he gave his family. Yet he also had an undercurrent of something not being right. There is an untold story there, something I wish to understand and know. My dad should have been grandpa’s pride and joy, but grandpa pushed dad too hard and never accepted the wonderful wild boy my father was. Maybe it was because grandpa felt cheated by the birth of a first-born daughter that was mentally disabled. Maybe that was the day he shut down the tender vulnerable part of his heart. She still lives to this day and suffers from the effects of a father that didn’t ever love his daughter. My dad was always protective of his sister, and tried to show her as much love as a younger brother could show back in the days when children like her were to be hidden away.
I’m quite certain my grandma suffered through that marriage with quiet torment. She was a fierce godly woman, and I admire her greatly. Her faith must have gotten her through years of unhappiness and unanswered questions. Why did her husband lack the heart of Jesus but showed the ferocity of God? Why couldn’t he accept and love a daughter that would never progress past the mental age of a 2nd grader? It had to be her hope in a better day, a better life that enabled her to endured the troubles in this life. She died about ten years ago after many months of care in my parents home, she was given love and dignity in those final months. Dad loved her.
The day grandpa died, I was very young, and I would guess there was relief for the surviving family. I know that sounds terrible; but when the thunder and lightning of the storm passes – there is peace. I recall going to grandpa’s gravesite in a limousine. Dad goofed around with the various electric window switches. My brother and I giggled, grandma smiled. Maybe dad was just breaking the tension with humor, as he always does. But I surmise there is a deeper story there; that small act of simple-impulsive-folly represented more than words can say. It was a new peace that had entered the family’s life. The long storm was finally over.
Grandpa used to sing “Oh how I love Jesus” with a booming voice and pumping arm in strong rhythm. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he believed in God. And when the heart attack came he simply said, “Jesus I’m coming home” and then he was gone. Grace takes a man’s hard cold heart and mixes with something special that allows it to mold and squeeze through the gates of heaven into Jesus’ open arms. I know Jesus loved grandpa despite his unlikable ways, and I hope one day that the entire family is reunited in heaven in a peaceful way that they never knew. Loads of forgiveness will spill out, and grandma will get to meet her daughter free of disabilities and grandpa will be able to tell his son how proud he was, and that he always loved him. My dad was “the light of grandpa’s life” – grandpa just didn’t know how to show it .