Today would have been my grandpa’s 89th birthday.
It’s a date that has stuck in my mind all these years, a yearly reminder of a man I loved very much.
My Grandpa Marion passed away when I was 13. It came as a shock yesterday to realize that I’ve lived longer without him than with him. His relatively short bout with colon cancer ended on October 24, 1991, one day short of his 50th wedding anniversary. I honestly don’t remember a lot about that time. I think my parents did a lot to shield my brother and I from seeing him toward the end, because he was in a lot of pain and didn’t look like himself. When he was coherent, he would ask his pastor to read Revelation 21:4:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 HCSB)
I love my grandpa very much. Still do. But there are things I can no longer remember.
I can’t remember the sound of his voice. I think a memory is there, one I can almost access, but not clearly. I don’t remember how he took his coffee, except when my mom tells me when I inadvertantly do it. I don’t remember what made him laugh, but I know he often smiled at me.
Then there are the things I remember:
The way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled.
There’s a vague, yet somewhat clear memory of me sitting on his lap in “his” chair in the grandparents’ living room singing “O Christmas Tree” to him, over and over, making up my own lyrics sometimes when I wasn’t sure and him loving it.
I remember a moment when I was about 8 or 9 when my grandma and grandpa had driven down to our house on a Sunday afternoon. My mom and dad had recently taught me a song to sing as a solo in church and my mom asked me to sing it for my grandparents. I remember standing next to my mom as she accompanied me on the piano. When I finished the song and turned around to see what my grandparents’ thought, my grandpa was wiping tears from his eyes.
My grandpa was an interesting guy. He was a mechanic, a hard worker, a World War II vet. His growing up years had been hard. He said what he thought and once quit a job (probably as he was simultaneously fired) for punching his supervisor. Yes, punching his supervisor. He loved baseball and played on a local team for adults, the Perkins Pirates, when he and my grandma were younger. (My mom framed his jersey and hung his cleats up next to it.) He never finished high school because he needed to help support his family (mom/dad/brothers and sisters), but got his GED as an adult. He came to Christ later in life. He was a man who deeply regretted who he had been before that moment and who he sometimes was after that. He wrote poetry. He read books.
And he loved me. There’s something special to being a man’s only granddaughter.
He never got to see me get my driver’s license or graduate from high school. He wasn’t there for my college graduation or my Master’s. We never got to know each other as adults; he never saw my own house or the magazine I edit. I used to wonder sometimes, in those big moments of life, like the day I graduated from high school or college, if he would have been proud of me. My answer used to be, I hope so.
Now, I know the answer: yes. He would have been proud of me.
Because he was proud of me the first moment he ever saw me.