My husband’s grandfather passed away this week. He lived half a country away. We only saw him once every few years. My husband didn’t “grow up” seeing him very often either. But still, he was the kind of man who left a lasting impression on you from the moment you met him.
I began dating my husband when we were both 16, and I met his grandparents that same year when they came to visit. Sweet people. Politely happy to meet me, the teenage girlfriend desperate to spend all her time with her boyfriend and his family. . a family who was so accepting and loving of “outsiders” that it seemed they just loved everybody.
You can’t begin a relationship at the end of childhood without feeling like you “grew up” in that relationship. . .and that is what happened for me. Hubby and I married at the ripe old age of 20, and Grandpa and Grandma were at the wedding, after flying across the country to be there. And so continued my journey and my grafting into this marvelous family. Four years in, I already felt like I belonged most of the time. And my new husband showed great resemblance to this grandfather, which has only become more evident as time has passed and he has grown more “distinguished” as men do.
Grandpa had a certain familiar build about him, passed on to my husband almost exactly. No male pattern baldness to be seen. With a full mane of hair into his 80’s, just like the thick locks I affectionately refer to as “needing a good sheering” when hubby has stretched the limits of his haircut intervals. And I see many of these characteristics passed on into my son. And I think this adds to the sadness I feel right now, at the loss of a good man.
Grandpa always had a twinkle in his eye. And always a kind word on his lips. Our little family drove 2 1/2 hours each way for a visit with him that was half that long this summer. We knew his health was declining. He went back and forth from hospital to nursing home several times before he left us. He suffered from some dementia and didn’t really know the names of our children, but he touched my heart when my husband and I entered his hospital room this summer. His face lit up when he saw us. And recognized us. Both of us. And called us by our names. He remembered MY name. The granddaughter who was not born into his family, but rather grafted in through his grandson. And that meant something to me. It meant that he really did claim me as his own granddaughter. And that knowledge brought tears to my eyes.
As we hugged and kissed him goodbye for what would be the last time, even through the obvious fatigue and world-weariness in his eyes, there was that twinkle. Almost like he knew a little joke he wasn’t telling. We wished him well. We declared our love. And we went back to our normal lives, half a country away.
He wasn’t a perfect man. I’m sure those closer to him could attest to that better than I. But I admired his kindness, his sense of humor and a streak of stubborn tenacity that peaked out from underneath the twinkle that in my position as a once a year visitor, I never really got a chance to know well.
So Grandpa, you will be missed. You were well-loved. And I look forward to someday getting to know you better in heaven. Because one day, when time no longer matters and we both walk in the Garden in the cool of the day, I will learn more about the man behind the twinkling eyes. But for now, I will enjoy the similar twinkle in the eyes of my own true love. I will be thankful for strong genes passed on and seen in the broad shoulders of my own beloved son. Thank you, Grandpa, for living and loving and passing on part of who you are. My life is richer for it.