The family grapevine is operating at full bandwith today, as it does any day someone in the family is in need of our collective thoughts and prayers. My grandfather, Allen, is lying in a hospital bed in Montana, attempting to recover from his 14th back surgery. Apparently all the painkillers it’s taken to keep him alive for the past 30 years have built an immunity in his system to nearly all of them, and there is unfortunately little modern medicine can do to offer him any relief. His continued sanity in the face of the gruelling pain he lives with day in and day out is a statement to his immense determination and strength of character; he is still as energetic, supportive, cheerful, and selfless now as he was 27 years ago when he married my widowed grandmother and dutifully took on the role of emotional cornerstone for his newly-acquired family.
My grampa Allen is the type of guy every guy hopes he will be someday, when he is old enough to be a grandfather. He can make or fix anything, from a barn to a spice rack, a diesel engine to a paper airplane. He is an expert at nearly every craft he undertakes, and a patient teacher eager to share his knowledge and invested in his students’ success. All his tasks are undertaken cheerfully and with 110% effort, whether large or small, and things are done right the first time, with integrity, loyalty and love. He always has time for his children and grandchildren, and has been involved in our lives as much as we would allow in our various stages of youthful independence. His enthusiastic bear hugs – accompanied by the brush of his whiskers and the smell of his cologne – always made me feel welcome and safe under his roof, and his dedication to and passion for my grandmother – stronger every day despite all life has thrown at them – have become part of my measure for wedded bliss.
I wrote long Christmas cards to them both last year – letters, really – trying to encapsulate and express my love and appreciation for the people they’ve been to me and the sacrifices they’ve made for our family. I wanted them to know that their struggles have not gone unnoticed. I wanted to apologize for the times I was a child and was more interested in their Christmas gift than their attention, or for when I was a teenager who deemed them old-fashioned and “uncool”. I wanted to express my regret that I didn’t relish the opportunity to learn more from them when I was younger and geographically closer, and that it had taken me 28 years to realize not only how important they are to me, but how important I am to them.
Danielle and I sent a message through the hospital to be relayed to him, and will call both our grandparents tomorrow when they are both hopefully better rested. I know he’ll recover, because he always does, and will be back to his energetic self in a few weeks’ time, albeit slightly dulled by the ever-increasing dosages of drugs that no longer really help and the pain that never really goes away. I know neither of them will be on this earth forever, but there’s still time while they’re here to appreciate them in person, and there’s always time to pray for them.