Monday, October 31, 2011

Old Geezers

So, last December my folks moved to within 10 minutes of us in Castle Rock, CO, hailing from Fountain Hills, AZ.

And with them came my 93 year old Grandpa at the time. 

Here we are last Spring...


Today, Gramps as I affectionately have always called him, is 94, pushing 95 in March, 2012.  Lou, as others know him, now lives a little over a mile from my house door to door.  He needed a little extra care that my mom currently fighting cancer, could not provide...plus, he needed to have a bit more "social" interaction.

On my way home from running some errands yesterday, kid-free mind you, I decided to stop by and give my Gramps a kiss.

I also had a question to ask him, the answer to which "No" was not an option.  I'm just that stubborn...

Let me set the scene for you:  Three senior, and I mean senior, seniors, snuggled under warm blankets all in their individual reclining chairs watching football on a pretty sweet gigantic flat screen...each of them with a personal bowl of potato chips on their laps.  No, they didn't have white tank tops on and none of them have enough hair to grow mullets.  And to clarify, by watching I mean: in between naps, they catch the game.  Anyway, when the kids are with me I usually sit in the chair next to my grandpa but I wanted to be a little closer to him so I knelt down next to him instead.  He had been cat-napping but was happy to see me so we visited a while.

I told him I was sorry it had been so long since my last visit, that we had been out of town, Ryan has been sick off and on, etc.  Believe me, it's not cool to spread kid germs to already frail grandparents!  Especially whatever Ryan has had!

And then I dropped the question.  My mom already told me he told her, "Thank you, but no."  But, I'm like a preschooler...I'm persistent :)

"Gramps, I would like to invite you to our house for Thanksgiving."

You may think this is just your run of the mill question and it would be quite obvious for a grandparent to respond, "Well yes, of course, we'd be delighted!   Thank you, Dearie!  Is there anything we can bring?"

But my Gramps thinks at 94, he's a real bore.  He thinks since his teeth aren't as dapper or useful as they once were, he'd just be a hassle to have around because he can't eat most of the food and will just sit in a chair and take up space.  

He grabbed my hand and held it close to his chest.  He looked at me and thanked me for the invitation but assured me it would be better if he didn't come.

I didn't let go of my grandpa's hand for the next 45 minutes...even when I wiped a drip from his nose.  His hand was soft, no longer callused from 75+ years of hard work, and it was warm in mine.

I said, "Gramps, guess what?!  You aren't a burden, you are just old.  And, Thanksgiving is the perfect meal because you can eat pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, soft stuffing, and I'll even puree you some turkey, if that even sounds good to you?  It's all soft food so you'll be able to eat whatever you want!"

He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and smiled a little.  He patted my hand with his other hand and said, "Sweetie, thanks, but really, it's too much work."

I knew I had to plead my case so I dropped a name.  You've done it.  When you need to make a connection work or want to get something done.

"Gramps, Jason's Grandpa is flying in from South Dakota.  He hasn't gotten on a plane in probably 5 years, so it's a really big step for him.  He wanted to see all of his grand kids and great-grand kids.  I know he'd love to see you!"

"How old is he?"

"89."

Here's Jason's Grandpa and Em and Ry last summer...


These men have seen a lot of life.  They have experienced great joys, losses, disappointments, celebrations, both widowers wishing they were anywhere else but living life on earth without their brides.  They love their kids and grand kids and are grateful for the visits, but each night when they are alone I am not there with their thoughts of longings and what if's. 

We talked about what my Gramps would have done if he hadn't been a trucker and school bus driver.  He asked me what kind of work Jason's grandpa had done.  We talked about a lot of things.

*Em was quiet in the car one day after we had visited Gramps.  I asked her what was up and she said she didn't really know him that well so didn't really know what to say to him.  I told her even though his outward appearance seems old and frail and can be a little intimidating to kids, my Gramps is a man with a story, just like anyone else.  I told her she could tell him all about school and her friends, and in turn, to feel free to ask him anything.

The older people in our lives have a lot of stories to tell...yet they are the ones without social media outlets, the know-how of texting or cell phone usage.  They are sitting quietly, often napping, in old folks' facilities, filled with 90 plus years of real-life lessons with so very much wisdom to offer.  To learn their stories all you need is a chair and listening ear.

Somehow, though, in this day and age, it's the 20, 30 and even 40-somethings doing all the chatting.

There's nothing wrong with us sharing our experiences, our stories, even things we have learned on our journeys.

However, if there is an older person in your life, stop and ask yourself if you've asked them a question lately like, "Gramps, what was such and such like when you were 13, 24, 36, 58, 79...?"  Sometimes a smile will grace their lips as they recall a memory, other times tears may well, or it's quite possible the memory just won't be there, trapped deep in their heart without a way to be shared.

My point is this, just taking the time to ask and to listen may add a bit more life to their already grown and tired souls.

Do you have an old geezer in your life?  

I have two, my Gramps and Jason's, and they'll be eating mashed potatoes at my dining room table together for Thanksgiving this year.  And for that, I am thankful...

6 comments:

  1. YAY!!! So he's coming? I loved reading about this. The "Old Geezer" in my life is my aunt (84) and I've been sending my girls over to vacuum and dust her house. Last week Anika and Lizzy went to church with her. I think that pleased her to no end... and THAT's a big deal. ;-)

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  2. Karen, love that the girls are being your Geezer's helpers! That is a really great idea for bridging the generations. Love it! xoxox

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  3. I remember having breakfast with Lou about a year ago and he was uncomfortable at his favorite IHOP. He even left the table early to sit in the car, just feeling self-conscious with his family and mine though we're all crazy about him. When we were leaving, I stopped to say goodbye to him and he said, "I'm sorry I came. It's not important if I'm here...". I put my hand on his cheek and said, "Well, it mattered to ME that you were here." And I meant it. What seared me was I knew that he meant what he said, too.

    No matter what he says or how he acts or how often he deflects your gestures, you push on to break down the walls. The past may be more present to them than the future. At some point they may think that's all they have to offer is stories of the past. As it happens, those stories paint a mosaic of wisdom on a journey we have yet to take. During the last two years of my dad's life, he began speaking to me about the events of his youth: searching through Bavaria as a 19 year old looking for Hitler, cleaning up a concentration camp outside of Munich, wanting a home and realizing it was in the form of a woman he fell in love with rather than a castle made by man, climbing the upper regions on the corporate ladder, learning that life was never what you thought it would be but with God it could be amazing. From a stoic man who felt the need to express himself to his daughter, it meant more to me than any trust fund ever would (and I'm not knocking that!) God's grace was able to bring us full circle in a way I never anticipated. I left his death bed stronger than when I had first entered the room. Grateful for what I received that no one could ever take from me, death could not separate me from what I had been given. There is so much more to this life than just the daily living of it! It doesn't fade away with time or memory, if anything it grows stronger and remains unfailing. God's love is like that if you're fortunate enough to experience it. His mercy is fresh every morning, this side of heaven and beyond. As my dad (an old Montana man) would say, "Go ahead and bet the ranch on it!"

    To have the pleasure of the company of 'an old geezer' is a sublimely wrapped gift from Father God. Take all of it you can get and hold it closely to your heart, there are very few treasures that will ever compare.

    "We'll go walking hand in hand
    Laughing fit to beat the band
    With our backs turned,
    Looking down the path."

    ~ Warren Zevon

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  4. This made me cry. I pray as my parents get older they will know how much they mean to us. I need to tell them that now while they are in their 60's and healthy. I need them to know I like to be around them no matter what. Thanks for giving me the push to go ahead and plant those seeds in their hearts and minds today.

    Sadly, the two oldest members of our family passed away five years ago within five weeks of each other at ages 83 and 92. What I wouldn't give to be able to sit beside my sweet grandmother and hold her hand while she sat there pretending she was listening to conversation that she couldn't hear. How I long to stand by my husband's grandmother in the kitchen as she baked her famous pound cake and to get that stinking recipe like I said I would for so many years. At 92, she only stopped when she was hospitalized. She still drove, lived by herself and was never frail. A strong woman whom the Lord was ready for.

    Enjoy your thanksgiving celebration. I know you will let those Geezer's know they are loved and wanted.

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  5. Barbara Ann, I LOVE this! Thanks for sharing about my Gramps, but also about your dad! I had a secret old man crush on your dad...I never told anyone :) The first time I saw him in church I was just so struck by his stature and strength, but especially by his quiet and confident demeanor. He and your mom both had/have such a beauty in the way they carry themselves. And in knowing you, it is obvious where your beauty and confidence originate!

    Thanks for sharing some of your heart and some of Jack's story!

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  6. Southern Gal, I didn't want to call our parents "geezers" quite yet, but yes, it does help us to slow down a bit and look at even the youngest loved ones in our lives, all the way to the oldest, and make the most of each moment.

    I wish I had that pound cake recipe, too :)

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