Well it’s here, the moment I’ve morbidly prepared myself for since my young heart fell in love with an old man’s secret winks, the bug-eyed, tongue-out faces he’d make behind the backs of oblivious family members, and the denture-less stories he’d tell to the soundtrack of my giggles. He told me I was beautiful. He may not have been the first but he was definitely the first I believed.
I began writing words for what I’d say at his funeral shortly after my young heart connected with him. I was younger than ten and already aware I’d need to begin the hard work of grieving then, long before the possibility of his absence was made real. That was the mark he left on my heart. So, I began to run words together of what I’d say when he passed, hoping to remove some of the pain I’d feel when he finally departed. I built a cocoon around my heart to protect it from the moment I’m standing in now. But now that it’s here, and after a couple tears, I feel… joy. That’s what he’d want.
I wont get to hear him retell the two stories that bonded us tightly together ever again- but because of my young heart’s desire to preserve itself, it made it so that every single time I’d see him- I’d listen to him tell these two stories as if they’d be the last.
Being too young to go to the amusement park with my parents and siblings, “having” to stay with Grandpa to take a nap (his nocturnal big-band jazz-listening made naps a necessity for him, too.) That while sleeping in his bed, he laid down with me, but only to wake up every 10 minutes to peel my four year old form from his side, the one that kept migrating across the bed just to be near him.
And the trip from Leavenworth to Olathe, sitting on his lap in the car. How’d I’d talked the entire time. He’d say how he’d try to pat my leg and get some silence by looking out the window but how I’d grab his chin as if to remind him of what he needed to be doing and angle it back to my face so I could share more of my heart while looking into his blue Vincent Price eyes.
It wasn’t all beautiful. He’d hate to be glorified in such a plastic way. To this day, I wear his anger and fight it down alternating between periods of mental warfare and disappointment in myself. But now, two hours after his passing, it feels as if even here in discussing our family’s anger, he’s pointing me back to my truest love. He’d be the first to say that it was his imperfections which made him need his savior so desperately. His too-charming nature, his disrespect for boundaries, his temper, stubbornness, and pride.
But this same man, with all of his flaws, would steal Burger King french fries off a stranger’s tray just to shock them enough to lessen the blow that would come when he’d ask if they knew Jesus. I don’t know how many lives he changed, but I know how he changed mine.
I think he knew I’d come to know the Lord. Maybe that’s why he was always winking at me in secret, as if he knew that the love he’d imparted on me as a young girl was nothing on what I had coming when I’d finally swallow the bull-headedness that runs so deep in our family and finally surrender to my Father.
He’d say half-joking, “I sure hope I live long enough to meet your husband,” which he did, followed by “I hope I live long enough to see you have children,” well, he did that too.
But now it’s my turn Grandpa… I hope I live lovingly enough to show people the you in me.
I cried those tears- but only because I’m selfish. I guess my premature preparation for your passing didn’t quite work Grandpa. But if I could swallow my grief out of the way for a moment, I’d have my eyes closed and arms lifted in gratitude that you’re finally where you’ve wanted to be since you surrendered to Jesus… home.