I first met W – who for the rest of our time together I’ve lovingly called him Grandpa – at a craft show at the hockey arena.
He and his wife were here visiting, and I was introduced to him by his daughter-in-law, K. She enthusiastically told him, “This is my very best friend”. I was amazed by his woodworking talents. Little did I know how that sweet little old man would come to hold a place in my heart!
After Grandpa moved to Marshall, he took in an interest in his church family and in K & S’s friends. That was extra special for us, because that meant that my children had a grandfather figure when their grandpas lived so far away. Didn’t matter if it was concerts, Boy Scout derbies, sporting events, or 4-H poultry shows even if it was 100 degrees; if he wasn’t busy, he attended.
I am so glad that I got to know him before his memories started to be cloudy and slowly a silent stealer took them away. My place in Grandpa’s life changed at the beginning of this journey. If I told the truth, it was really Grandpa’s place in my life that evolved. See my own grandfather, Papa, went on this same journey of lost memories and passed away just before all these changes happened for Grandpa. They were just a few years apart in age. This was something that wasn’t missed on this girl who no longer had her grandfathers.
Grandpa had a young man that lived with him and one day they had a disagreement. The young man called S (who couldn’t leave work) and K, who also couldn’t leave work, but who in turn called me. Oh my! My instructions were to see if I could calm everyone down. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I remembered; I had cookie salad in my fridge. My Tupperware in hand, off I went to diffuse a situation.
Never knowing the real reason for my stopping by and bearing sweets, Grandpa and I became pretty good friends. We visited at church and at “family” functions. As the journey wore on, so did the amount of care that Grandpa needed. One day, S and K asked if I would consider coming a few mornings a week to help provide caregiving.
Enthusiastically, I said yes! It was during this time, that I learned so many things about Grandpa’s life, and I didn’t mind if I heard the story over and over again. Every time, he told the stories his eyes twinkled, and I felt I got to see his heart. A heart that loved God above all, and through that love lavished love on his wife and his children and grandchildren!
After Grandpa moved to the M Manor, I wasn’t done taking care of him. I finagled my way into a volunteer position with our family dog, Huck, visiting residents. This way, I could regularly go see Grandpa and share just a few small moments with him.
There are so many personal memories that I could share, but I will limit it two of my favorites.
Grandpa and I share November birthdays – just three days apart. One year we had our birthday celebration at a local pizza place. We were a little late to arrive as usual. It is dark early in November; so, we could clearly see inside the windows. Grandpa was not “glowing” like a birthday boy should be. When we walked in, Grandpa’s whole demeanor changed. My husband whispered in my ear, “Remember this moment. Right now you are the Belle of the Ball. Look at how his face changed.” I don’t know if you have ever had that experience. I have only had that moment once before – on my wedding day.
My second favorite memory is from my days of caregiving before Grandpa moved to the Manor. After a few weeks, he asked me if I would have devotions with him. Would I? Absolutely! The next time I arrived, he had his Bible, his devotional, and his prayer book for our church’s active missionaries. Those were some of the most precious times I have ever spent. We took turns reading, praying, and discussing the devotion.
One day, we read a devotional based on Psalm 105: 1-2, which I now think of as Grandpa’s verse.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
[a]Speak of all His [b]wonders. (NASB)
During our discussion, I shared with him that I had a decision to make because I had been recently asked to begin speaking about our family’s story, including our great sadness. As I sat there at the kitchen table with tears streaming down my face, I said that this verse seemed to be confirmation as to what I was supposed to do – even though I was going to have to go way out of my comfort zone at times, leaving my family.
Without missing a beat, after a sip of his tea, he quietly said, “Jesus and I were wondering how long it was going to take you to figure that out.”
For all those who have heard me speak, those marching orders I have never forgotten.
I am so thankful to the family of W for giving me the chance to call him Grandpa. He will be missed until we can have devotions at his table again someday.