He wasn’t fancy or rich or famous. He was bald-headed and wore khaki coveralls. My Grandad had a kind smile, but would dutifully be the bad guy (although he wasn’t very gruff) if we grandkids misbehaved.
I don’t remember him ever telling me I was pretty. He didn’t brag on how smart I was or make a big deal out of any picture I ever drew, that I can remember.
I suppose he was proud of all thirteen of his grandkids, but our merit never had anything to do with being loved by Grandad. He loved us because he ‘was’ love more than loving us under some crazy notion that we’re always 100% lovable.
He taught me...
•Love does the dishes.
With a house full of capable hands whose statures probably fit up to the sink more comfortably, my Grandad was never above doing the dishes. He’d scoot up and wash.
•Love siezes the opportunity to make someone laugh.
He told jokes, sometimes the same ones, but he enjoyed bringing a smile. I loved the way his face lit up when he was about to say something funny. He was always in supply of jokes about the missing pinky finger he lost in a carpentry accident.
Visiting him in the nursing home, not long before he died, I asked him how he was doing. “Pretty good I guess. I’ve still got all my fingers and toes...Oh...uhp...wait,” he joked as he held up his hand and looked mockingly at his missing finger.
Grandad was a giver. I learned about offering for Sunday school from him. If my brother and sisters spent the night on a Saturday night, we could count on finding an envelope the next morning at the bar that he’d made out with our name. There would be two quarters in it that clanked together when carried into church in our Sunday best. He was a veteran, a Gideon, a deacon, and ministered in the prisons.
Our Grandad lost most of his memory when our Meme died. I think most of us felt it was a grace gift from God that he lived in a world full of new stories, created so that he wasn’t missing her so much.
He’d tell that he was ten thousand years old and that he’d fought in five world wars. Once he told us he’d caught a thousand pound channel cat.
He’d told these stories having no idea who he was talking to. He’d forgotten me. But he continued to tell stories to delight, not because he knew a granddaughter or a grandson or a daughter or son was there to be entertained, but because he wanted anyone in his presence to feel welcomed and loved. He never forgot that.
My Meme may have been the navigator, barking the familialy famous, “Watch the road George,” but it was my Grandad who stayed behind the wheel. In a truck bed fit with a camper shell, he and my grandma loaded up the grandkids and took us all over the country. We saw beautiful Ladybird Park, the dust devils of New Mexico and Colorado’s snow capped mountain peaks from a mattress in the back of the truck. I can't ever remember feeling any safer.
A year and a half ago my Meme’s health wouldn’t allow for her to stay at home anymore. She needed special care. I’ve lived hundreds of miles away from my grandparents, but was able to visit the summer when my Meme had just been moved into a nursing facility. I sat by my Grandad who was in his chair facing the picture window in the small living room space of their cabin. “I can take care of myself,” he told me. “But if she’s there, I’m going to be there too.” For him, Meme was “IT!”
I miss him, but I’m thankful that a year and a half after our Meme entered into the presence of God, he followed. Because of their faith in Christ, their love and their example, I’ll follow someday. We don’t grieve like those without hope.
But today, I’ll do the dishes. I’ll do my best to share laughter. And I’ll remember to love.