This is also the day my mother's father was born. I don't mean my biological grandfather, but the grandfather who chose--with my grandmother--to adopt my mother when she had just been born. They were childless and middle-aged, and they took a leap. Without their leap, which one might regard as an act of exceptional obedience to God's call in their lives, you wouldn't be reading this.
My grandfather honored his birthday patron well, and I can't help thinking of him when March 19 comes around. Below I offer a tribute to my memories of his generosity and love, written in the form of a letter, dated several days after his death. I was a senior in high school when he died.
December 8, 1999
I never got to tell you all this stuff...because after a while, I stopped coming to your house. I began riding the bus to school, and rarely got the chance to go to the 5 & 10 with your complimentary $2. I stopped sleeping over at your house, and began having my own sleepovers. Every place you took me, every memory we shared, grew obsolete as I grew up. The memories were gems, but I didn't know what to do, with you so sick.
I was frightened.
There was so much I didn't know about you. Even though you fixed my knees when I scraped them on the gravel, gave me Squirt from the basement when I was thirsty, let me play on the ivy, gave me rides in the car with the blue interior, and gave me lots of bread for the ducks at the park, all I knew of you was the grandpa side. When you took me and Jasmine to the monument and got us hamburgers to quiet our stomachs, you were the wonderful grandpa, but did I know you? When you were there for my Confirmation, standing as my sponsor, you were kind and patient, but did I know you?
And when you read that article in the newspaper about me, talking about what I'd done for Hoops for Heart in ninth grade, you were so impressed that you gave me my wish, a second thought I'd thrown in during the reporter's interview. You bought the computer that I type on now, that I've cherished so much....
You only bought the computer--you didn't help in its selection. You were afraid with all of us that you would buy the wrong thing--that we wouldn't be happy. There was only one exception--the exception you made for me. Was it my fourth or fifth birthday? when I received the stuffed clown, the one I named Pepper, the one who rules among all my Barbie dolls and stuffed animals. Pepper was the best gift I'd ever received, because it was the only one you dared to give. And it was perfect.
Those butter cookies are getting stale. The oyster crackers are drying out. The V8 might last a little longer, but not forever. Your offerings of food and drink will never sate me again. The davenport will grow dusty, as all the rooms did. I won't sprawl my sleeping bag on the dented green carpet in the living room, with my red-print nightgown and Care-bears. I won't touch the nightlight. I won't play with the lovely dancer on the shelf. I won't climb on tiptoe to see the mirror.
All these things, even the ones unmentioned, will become dimmer in my mind as time continues its path. Tears will trickle down my cheeks as I struggle to remember all those things....
But in the meantime, I will watch, listen, and learn. There were many things about you I didn't know. You were more than a wonderful grandpa--you were a wonderful person! I want to know that person. Maybe, if I learn more about that person, I will learn more about myself--or at least have something to aspire to.
I hope you have listened, and filled in the blanks where I forgot.
I love you.