Sometimes on Sunday mornings, I just sit and stare at this blank canvas…thinking of all the beautiful and insane things I could impart to you today.
I recollect stories.
Some are joyous.
Some are hilarious.
Some are unspeakably painful.
This morning the memories are flooding in…as I am missing my grandpa.
He left us 9 years ago today.
I wish I could say I remember it like it was yesterday. But the details fade more and more as the years pass.
I think that is time’s way of making the pain a little less cruel.
Grandpa died on a Tuesday.
My best friend’s daughter had just entered the world the day before.
I quietly asked God to somehow help me gracefully both welcome and say farewell to two such precious creatures within the same 24 hours.
My mom’s family has always been extremely close. We are the 30 weirdos you see at the hospital gathered in the waiting room when one of us is having an x-ray.
But we were always at the hospital whenever grandma or grandpa were admitted or having tests done.
So when the doctors told us that grandpa’s time was coming to an end, we gathered together in his tiny hospital room and just sat with him.
We told stories.
We sang hymns.
We ordered pizza.
The hospital staff let us stay for hours.
And we just breathed in those last few moments together.
I remember holding my grandpa’s giant, sweet hand next to my face and wondering how my 34 years with him had gone so quickly.
When I closed my eyes I could still vaguely smell motor oil and English Leather cologne.
Every day for 50 years, they had worked to sustain our family.
They had planted food in the ground.
They had folded in prayer countless times.
They had proudly held two children and five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He would always say, “If I knew grandkids were going to be so much fun, I would have had them first.”
He loved my kids fiercely.
He never truly understood my son’s autism. He tried. But to be honest, the last few years of grandpa’s life, he couldn’t hear us half the time when we were talking to him. He always said he could hear me best because of the low tambour of my voice and that I spoke to him slowly. So one day he asked me to explain autism and how it would impact Zion’s future.
So I sat down with grandpa and some written information, so he could read about autism and ask questions.
When he was done reading he just looked up at me and smiled and said, “I don’t know anymore than I did 10 minutes ago.”
I told him I was scared and I didn’t know what to expect.
He told me that I was strong and smart, and that I would figure it out.
He was right.
Grandpa hasn’t been here for the majority of Zion’s life.
That is hard to wrap my head around.
Zion was diagnosed in August 2006. We lost grandpa in December 2007.
Zion was only 3.
He is 12 now.
The photo below was taken Christmas 2004, when Zion was 6 months old. This is the last Christmas I remember just being completely and naively unaware of real problems…and the many, many changes that were about to come into my life.
Before the autism.
Before the immigration fiasco.
When my grandparents were still here and my biggest problems during the holidays were how to carry in 4 bags of gifts and a baby into the house…or how to get a dutch oven of dumplings and two trays of yeast rolls in grandma’s tiny oven at the same time.
To this day, there are times I drive by their home and almost pull into the driveway to share news about something good that has happened.
But my grandparents are both gone now.
Yet the one thing that remains is the one thing that ever really mattered.
Regardless of how old I get, I still feel like a small child when I think about my grandparents. They were the most lovely, generous, and joyful people I have ever known.
And their kindness and unfailing love are the foundation on which I have built my life.
I wish my grandpa had been here to see Zion’s progress, and to witness the little fireball that Zoë has become.
He would be so very proud.
He loved to look around at a room full of his four generations of family and say, “I started all this.”
Yes you did, sir.
And you’ll be proud to know that we are carrying on, with a Papaw Pe sized hole in our hearts.