October 15, 2006
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemingly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth . . .” — I Corinthians 13:4-8
Today is the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. If there were to be a picture in the dictionary next to the word charity, it should be a picture of my grandfather.
He was my last living grandparent, so his passing truly brought the end of an era. Aside from that, he was a rare type of person — the epitome of honesty, integrity, humility, long-suffering, patience, kindness and everything else good you can think of. He died in the house he was born in. He lived beneath his means. He developed his talents and used them constantly in service of others. He lived life simply. He never slowed down until cancer left him no choice. He was noble and great, though not in a worldly sense. By example and deed he was the patriarch of our family in the best sense possible.
In his final weeks I talked with him a bit about death. At that point he was bedridden and every bite he ate, every sip he swallowed would come back up, bringing along with it part of his stomach lining. He told me he wasn’t afraid to die but he hoped he wouldn’t suffer like so many others he knew. I was baffled by the calm of his answer and by the long-suffering of his attitude. He was suffering, but he didn’t quite realize it. He just wasn’t in the habit of focusing on his own discomfort.
I will forever be grateful for his legacy of love and kindness, stability and gentleness, hard work and modesty.
After my grandmother died over three years ago, I began visiting my grandfather more often. I loved to cook for him because he truly appreciated it. My grandmother was the queen of her kitchen, a large, beautiful kitchen that my grandfather built for her. He built it, she ruled it, and when she was gone, he was somewhat lost in it. I felt like an interloper treading on sacred ground when I would rummage through her cupboards for pots and pans and ingredients, but I loved doing that for him so that he didn’t have to, and because I actually enjoy cooking, and, again, because he really appreciated it.
I always felt like I was dragging a circus into his normally quiet house, but seeing my children run and play made him smile and laugh. He said it was nice to have some life back in the house. He told me many times that someday I will look back at this period of my life with small children and realize that these were the golden years. I keep reminding myself of that, because, more often than not, they feel like the binge drinking years (ok, I don’t actually drink at all, but if I did . . .).
I miss him. I miss his peaceful perspective. I miss his years of accumulated wisdom. I miss my other grandparents as well, and as much, but not as acutely. I guess that is because they have been gone longer and because, after they were gone, he stood alone as a symbol of all the grandparental goodness with which I have been blessed. It truly is a blessing, you know, to come from good people. The older I get, the more I understand this, and the more I wonder at how I got so lucky, and the more I hope I can manage to pass this blessing on to my own children and grandchildren.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.