Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Moment: Waiting On Mercy

I will see Your goodness, Lord,
In the land of the living. I will wait for You, Lord.
I will be strong and take heart and wait for You.
-Psalm 27:13-14

His name is Jack. Quarterback Jack, as he was sometimes called. He spent his youth working hard and playing football and being the oldest of three sons. He spent his early adult years serving his country, graduating from college, and teaching and coaching. And fishing. All of that when he wasn't falling in love with Carolyn. His wife. The mother of his five children.

I'm the oldest daughter of his oldest daughter. Jack, this handsome, hysterically funny man, is my Grandfather.

He has Parkinson's. Before that showed up, though, he had a mischievous streak a mile long. As a child, I'd be sent to the living room to ask my Grandfather if he'd like dessert. Jack would be sitting in front of the ballgame with his son and sons-in-law, my father included, and glance at me long enough to reply, in all seriousness: "Well, BB, is a snake's belly low?". Then he'd wink. I'd double over in laughter and run back to the kitchen hollering, "Mom! Mom! He said 'is a snake's belly low?'!"

We were all shocked to hear his diagnosis. At first, a few years ago, it didn't mean all that much. Not then. We read about it and asked questions and asked him, all the time, "How're you feeling, Grandad?" Fine. He always felt fine. Then one Christmas we noticed his hands shaking as he ate. The next time we saw him he needed our help getting around. The next time he rolled to the table in his wheelchair. The next time he was confined to bed.

I drove to see him last night. I walked the long, brightly lit hall until I got to the room with his name outside the door. James Allen, it read. I walked in. My Grandmother was sitting along side his hospital bed, as she always is.

She gasped and stood, all hugs and smiles. I smiled, for her, and turned my attention to the man in the bed. He was staring straight ahead, his face blank and his mouth slightly open. His feeding tube and IV sat close by, and I busied myself reading the labels on his "food" bottle and answering my Grandmother's questions. Yes, I'm good. Yes ma'am, I'm really busy. Yes, everything's fine.

The room was stuffed to the gills, it seemed, with cards and pictures and plants. One little ivy plant had a scarecrow pushing a wheelbarrow. The forced cheerfulness seemed lost in the sterile, sad room. I turned from the plants and found my Grandfather's hand and held it.

"Jack," said my Grandmother, loudly. "Do you know who this is?"

He didn't. I smiled and squeezed his hand anyway. He coughed.

That man in the bed isn't my Grandfather. I want it to be him, again, but it's not. It's just not. He's not the same man who, as a teacher and administrator, taught thousands of students to think and perform - in the classroom, on the field, in life. He's not the same man who taught me to honor my parents, love the Lord my God with all my heart, and do well in school. And fish. Oh, the fishing...


He took me out in his boat early one Saturday morning, just the two of us. I must have been... what? Seven? He buckled my life jacket and handed me my fishing rod and sat me firmly in the boat. He rowed as I talked... gabbing on about who knows what. When we reached the middle of the pond he stopped, tucked the oars under our feet, and baited my hook. "There's a big one out there, BB," he said, scanning the water. "What do you say we take her home today?"

Anything for you, Grandad.

He told jokes and we laughed as the sun traveled over the water and above our heads. I'd cast my line and flick my rod, like he taught me, to entice the fish. Just as I got comfortable, a yank at the end of my pole nearly pulled me from the boat. "You got the big one, BB!" my Grandfather yelled. "Reel 'er in! Reel 'er in!"

As that pole nearly bent in two, it took all of one second for me to realize that there could only be one winner in fishing: that sea creature or me. I screamed and tossed the pole in, letting the swimming monster have it all - hook, rod and reel, everything.

"What... why'd you do that, BB?" my Grandfather hollered in disbelief. We watched as the rod zipped through the water in a clean, straight line, and then dipped under.

"I didn't mind catching the monster, Grandad," I said. "I just didn't want to ride home with it in the same truck."

He looked at me for a long minute and then chuckled. Then he laughed. And laughed and laughed. I still remember sitting in that boat atop a sea of sparkly, slippery water, and feeling my ears fill with his laughter.


I'm sure, if he could, he'd tell you the story himself. It was one he'd like to tell, ending it each time by shaking his head and saying, "Man, that was a new rod, too."

But back in his room last night, it was apparent his days of telling that story - or any story, for that matter - are over. I stood to go. I said goodbye to my tired, lonely Grandmother and then turned to Jack. Please know me. Please know me, I prayed silently. Then I grabbed his hand once more and bent over and kissed his cheek. "Grandad, it's me. BB," I said softly. "I need you to hear me, okay? I need you to hear that I love you, Grandad. I love you. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry about your rod and reel."

I felt a small squeeze on my hand. When I straightened up and looked at him, he was smiling.


Oh God, I'll wager on Your love as I wait on Your mercy. I will see Your goodness, Lord, in the land of the living. Please watch over and bless my family - all our families - as we wait expectantly for You.

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!


Anonymous said...

Hey B!

I have missed you. When you see grandpa Jack again tell him that I miss him too! I love you and I hope you are doing better. I will talk to you soon.

Love ya Sis,

Anonymous said...

I read your blog from time to time. The internet has a unique way of drawing people together that you might not meet otherwise. Thank you for sharing about your Grandfather. I feel as though you just introduced me to him in such wonderful way. Sending good thoughts your way...

Anonymous said...

Cherish those wonderful memories of your Grandpa! You had a great relationship with him and I am so glad that he could squeeze your hand and smile..he must have been laughing inside!!

~Molly~ said...

Awe, I am so sorry Brin. Betty is right, cherish those memories! This past May, I lost my last grandparent at the age of 92, and only 2 years beforehand my grandmother(his wife) died. Grandpa died from kidney cancer, Parkinson's, and just plain old being old. He was mostly with us mentally until the last few months or so. I do miss him.

Molly, in east Texas

Anonymous said...

It's been 20 years since my last grandparent passed on - 44 years since my precious great grandmother Lula went to be with the Lord - I was only 5 when she died - oh how I miss her - still hurts.

Thank you for sharing about Grandpa Jack...a gift to be sure.

Unknown said...

B! I love reading your posts. How I too long for the touch of my darling grandpa and grandfather (both passed). Thanks for your touching stories. I love coming here and reading them and remembering when...thanks again for rekindling the memories for me! Big hugs!

That Girl said...

Lovely thought: Oh God, I'll wager on Your love as I wait on Your mercy. Beautiful!

Grandparents are something else, huh. Living 2000 miles away from mine, I would hope for kisses and warm be to them that joy and spark in their eyes on those sporatic few times we could be together. But, though they were (and Grandma still is) good, I mostly got--and get--germanic stoicism and sizing-up. Ouch. Still hurts.

I know they loved me, but even as a child, I felt judgement more than I was a source of joy for them.

I am sure some of it is my perception. But I'll never forget my sweet grandpa's nose, scrunched up in disgust when he thought I wasn't looking, giving my chubby preadolescent frame a once over. I nearly died in shame. And now that it's just grandma alive, on those few occasions I see her, I feel like I have to come with a list of accomplishments at the ready, to tic off the feats of my life, to measure up.

I don't have kids, but the sad thing is that I observe how my parents struggle with the same tendency to be judgemental of their grandchildren... and how they treat some of their grandchildren differently from others. Some of the ones most needing grace and love and warmth and for you to be interested in them, don't necessarily get it. I try to talk to my parents about it--one parent in particular--but somehow the old ways remain, and in some way they think they are doing them a favor in offering criticism and lecture.
It breaks my heart.

I guess just a reminder to grandparents out there: You really can have a profound influence on the lives of your grandchildren! Be you near or far from them!

BellaColle said...


sister sheri said...

Grief is the process of putting back together the pieces of a broken heart -- a hole so deep in the middle of your heart that it aches and hurts and you think it will never stop hurting. Thinking of you, Sheri

Debe said...

Life is such a process...and it is hard! Just be glad for the close relationships. They are truly priceless. And not everyone enjoys such. Hug your grandma, she is truly missing Jack.
Hugs to u!!

Anonymous said...

Oh Bri, I'm so sorry. I wish I could be there to cry with you and visit them with you, and just be a supportive fly on the wall so to speak for you and Mrs. Carolyn.

I love you and yours very much.

I'm sending you something. I'm scared to death you already have it... and if you do, pass it on to someone that needs it. (I checked your "blog books" to make sure it wasn't listed, so you might not have it.) It's a copy of "Some Like it Hot: 50 Drinks to Warm Your Spirits." I was looking for hot chocolate mixes to send you, but decided a book on making hot chocolate might be more up your alley, and I narrowed it down to 2, that one and "Hot Chocolate: 50 Heavenly Cups of Comfort." I put the latter on my wish list, but I really thought that one was more me, and the former more you because it was more eclectic, and not just about chocolate. (You know me, I'm all about the chocolate.) But seeing a drink based on good old fashioned caramel apples and one made from pumpkin, I just knew that was the one you needed. It's got some good chocolate drink recipes, of course, but I went with my gut. (Or maybe I went with your gut, and put my gut on my wish list?) Whatever... It should be waiting for you when you get back from your trip. Every time you make something from it, imagine it's warmth wrapping you in a loving hug from me. (tears enter here... mine are.)

love you a bunch,

Terri Steffes said...

I loved your post. I had a grandpa just like that. I miss him so much. I was the oldest grandkid so I was pretty special to him. It is nice being special to someone, ya know?

Unknown said...

You've done it again Brin, you have a way to draw out the tears! I never knew any of my grandparents and I miss that part of my life. You have a special gift and I feel blessed to be a reciever! Hugs!!

Liz Harrell said...

Such sweet memories, thank you for sharing them. I had a hard time reading this; I've lost both my grandfathers. There really isn’t anyone or anything that can fill that special void, they are irreplaceable. I'll say a prayer today for your grandpa, he sounds like a wonderful man.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Brin.
Such a beautiful love story. I have read it several times during the day.
My mother in law died of Parkinson last year.....

Daffodil Hill said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful!

Lallee said...

Brin, that is one of my favorite verses. It's so difficult to see our broken world in the lives we hold so dearly. Some day it won't be this way. I so enjoyed your fishing memory with your grandfather. My memories with mine are very dear to me. Sending you hugs at this difficult time!


Erin said...

your grandfather was incredibly handsome and I definitely see a family resemblance between y'all.

Amy said...

My grandfather had Parkinson's too. It's hard to see them like that. I have the stuffed dog he used to tell us barked too loud. Ryan loves playing with it. I can't wait to tell him all about him.

Beverly said...

As i was reading and you said that was not your grandfather, I was thinking "yes it is, yes it is, he knows you are there!" I was so glad when you told him you were there. I knew he was, and the squeeze showed you he was. My mom was unresponsive but I saw her eyes try to blink. I called to her, told her i was there and to open her eyes if she heard me. She did. I told her I loved her and she opened her eyes. I told her I knew she loved me and she opened one more time. My son and his wife had just walked in to see this. We know she was telling me goodbye. She never responded again.

kari and kijsa said...

Oh....we just found your wonderful, wonderful blog....I have tears in my eyes right now as I write this....what a testimony to a live well lived! Our grandmother was this kind of person and she left this world a better, better place. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post!

blessings to you,

kari and kijsa

Anonymous said...

Thank you, you warmed my heart w/ your story. You made tear up and you made me remember the older men in my life who are now gone. My Grandpa and my Dear Father-in-Love.


BostonGirl said...

Hello, I've been reading your blog as I was so interested in your story. This story about your grandfather is so wonderful. It is wonderful that you will always have these moments to remember. My grandfather "Jake" is turning 100 this year, and your post makes me realize that I need to spend more time with him and soak up as many stories as possible. Thank you for that reminder. Prayers for you, your family and of course, your "Jack".