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?"
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...