Monday, March 13, 2006
Grandpa will be eighty years old next month. He's one of a kind. Maybe everyone says that about their grandfather, but mine really is. Grandpa used to be a pilot. His hearing is shot from all those years in the cockpitt. He can't hear normal volume speech. He can only hear yelling, so that's what we do. I'm not a regular yeller; only for Grandpa. My voice is quite soft, but I really belt it out for him.
After years of severe leg cramping and a numb bottom, Grandpa retired from flying and moved into the country where he farmed sheep, cats, chickens, and sometimes turkeys. Much of my childhood was spent on the farm. I learned to value animals and the fresh food they gave us. Fresh eggs taste better than grocery store eggs. Lamb was never on our plates. Sheep were our friends, not our food. I was lucky enough to watch the birth of a few baby lambs. The sight of blood gets to me most of the time, but strangely never during baby lamb birthdays. I loved feeding them with baby bottles and hearing the "baaaaa" that can only come from real live sheep. Grandpa would sometimes nurse a sick or premature lamb in the kitchen of his warm house. Grandma never complained when she saw wooden boxes full of woll being laid beside her stove. Even with the highest hopes and extra care, Grandpa taught us that not every animal is meant to be with us. He never took losing any of his farm family well.
Unfortunately loss was not unfamilar to Grandpa. He lost his first wife to cancer in her early thirties leaving him to raise three children alone. Love blessed Grandma again nearly a decade later when he met my Grandma, a classy flight attendant who was wise and knew how to cook. Grandma doesn't say too much, but every once in a while, she'll say something that reminds us that it's the witty ones who choose their words carefully. Grandma's cooking always makes me happy to be alive. Her pies are in my dreams. Grandma met his match in Grandma.
When my uncle was in flying school at the age of twenty, he crashed a plane and lost his life. His plane began to go down not far from Grandpa's house and close enough for him to view the heartbreaking crash. I've often heard Grandpa say, "There are some things in life we never get over. We only learn to accept them."
Age, poor health and stress has taken its toll on Grandpa. Though still quick with a joke, he has trouble remembering names and dates and often repeats the same phrases. Visits with him begin, continue and end with the words, "Roses are red. Violets are blue. It sure is nice sitting here with you." Over and over, Grandpa says the same thing. It can be sad and irriating, but at least his words are sweet. Sometimes he has a lost, confused look in his eyes, and I worry about the difficult road ahead of him. Grandpa doesn't look much like the man in the picture above, but I hope that, through each challenge he faces, Grandpa will always find a reason to grin.