Thursday, May 9, 2013

Otis

He died while I was in my mid twenties, but up until about three or four years before his death, I viewed my maternal grandfather as an angry, disconnected, somewhat silly man. My only pleasant early memories of him are that he occasionally blew cigarette smoke into a bubble wand for us in his backyard. Other than that, he watched T.V., yelled at us for leaving half empty cans of Coca Cola around the house, and hated junk mail with a transcendent passion.

He was not the fun grandfather. The fun grandfather--a person who was and still is wonderfully supportive and engaged with me to this day--is my paternal grandfather.

But something changed when my son was born; because we were a poor, young couple who couldn't afford daycare, my grandmother agreed to watch our son while we went out and worked for virtually minimum wage. During that period, the craggy exterior of my grandfather softened, and he embraced our son with all of his heart. He loved my son with all of his heart, and I learned to love him in return for the love he gave to my son. He would call and ask us if his little buddy could come over and play on the days my grandparents weren't watching him. He was always purchasing little stuffed animals and toys for him, and made a ritual out of walking to the mailbox--that receptacle of the hated junk mail--with him. It was very cute to see them walk together.

My grandfather died of heart problems while my son was very young, but I am so glad they got to know each other, and I am so grateful that I got to see that side of my grandfather. Otis stands as my evidence that people are capable of growth. His relationship with my son is also my evidence that grace is real.

Recently I posted on my Facebook page that I believe humans between the ages of twenty and thirty and over the age of sixty are the ones who have the most promise; between twenty and thirty because of sheer propulsion, and over sixty because--if they haven't been hardened and made bitter by life--they have accumulated so much wisdom, and abandoned so much pointless ambition. My grandfather exemplified this truth.




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