My 98 year old grandfather passed away this last spring. Like background music, his constant and quiet presence was always unobtrusively there in my life and that of my son’s, appreciated all the more with his absence. Below is a story I wrote years ago and which formed a part of my eulogy for him. You can listen to the full eulogy and story at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_JLPPfd2ak&feature=em-share_video_user.
My son is about to turn two and, in his honor, my ninety-two year old grandfather has made his annual pilgrimage across the country to be witness to and mark this event. Although my mother and I sent him videos and digital photos of my son throughout the previous months, the look of amazement on his face when the two of them re-met was astounding. All he could do was comment on how much my son had grown up in the span of six months. Regardless, it didn’t take long for them to reconnect: as my son batted his million dollar smile in my grandfather’s direction, his heart melted and my son responded in kind, attracted by the love that shone out of eyes that hadn’t changed in almost a century.
Watching the two of them play on my living room floor, I’m struck by how, with almost a century standing between them, they are a study in contrasts. One so new that his skin is smooth, shiny, and clear, growing upward at a speed that is invisible to the naked eye. The other, wrinkly and wizened, constantly fighting the natural decay of his physical form. But more than anything, what stands out is their uniform joy, as if drunk on happiness, while exploring the known of the physical world and the unknown in each other.
Looking at them, I’m brought back to my own childhood when my grandfather seemed invincible. Being the oldest grandchild and the only girl, both of my grandfathers spent a lot of time with me. And it was from them, through innumerable adventurous excursions and play dates, that I learned some of my most valuable lessons: the importance of patience, diligence, forgiveness, helping others, setting a high standard for your own conduct, and appreciating what you have instead of desiring what you don’t. Although my parents tried to inculcate these values in me, ultimately it was my grandparents’ unconditional love and unlimited patience that allowed me to absorb them into the core of my nature that persevered into adulthood.
As a single mom whose parents are heavily involved in my son’s life, I am eternally grateful for their participation, even if it occasionally borders on interference. In these moments, I remind myself that they are simply doing their job. While it’s my responsibility to set the limits and enforce the rules, it’s theirs to love my son unconditionally, sometimes spoiling him by breaking the rules and crossing the lines that I have clearly demarcated.
If my son is as lucky as I, not only will he gain a wealth of experiences that I could not have dreamed up or given him for lack of time, but he’ll have two more people in his corner that he can count on as surely as he can the sun rising at dawn. And, he’ll learn from them important life lessons that he cannot from me, enriching his spirit while making the difficult transition to adulthood easier and increasing his likelihood of being true to who he wants to be.