My mind swam as I drove the thirty minutes to the hospital, my thoughts wandering back and forth between the cares of my day and my love and concern for my grandpa. I had just walked in from a pleasant lunch with one of my fellow Masons when the front desk lady flagged me down and handed me a scribbled note that read “grandpa – hospital – emergency – call mom”. Sometimes I really despise the way I always analyze things. Rather than allowing the naturally occurring emotions of such a surprise scenario to run their course, I immediately and instinctively subdued them, opting rather to convince myself that there was no cause for alarm or concern at this point since I had no real information upon which to base a judgment. But c’mon…with keywords such as those scrawled on that yellow piece of paper, how many conclusions could there be that don’t end in a situation where emotions are absolutely appropriate? I do believe that it’s more from fear than strength that I do that to myself…that I throw logic at myself in order to postpone the inevitable. Others look at me and see me as the strong one, the reasonable one, the one who is really able to think clearly and rationally. In reality, I am the one most afraid, and only do it as a self-protective measure. I tend to equate crying with vomiting…both are natural and healing reactions that our humanity thrust upon us when necessary, yet I find myself going to the greatest of lengths to utterly avoid them at all costs. I believe it’s because both of them are involuntary, and nothing frightens me more than not being in control of my situation. Well there, I’ve done it. I’ve just auto-analyzed my own psychology in a public forum. But I don’t care. I’m only writing about this in order to provide some sort of relief for myself, a vent for the anguish I kept bottled up as I helped my grandpa…no, suffered with my grandpa, through the stroke he had had that very morning.
I love that man, so very, very much. One of my greatest regrets is that I never put forth the effort to get to know him better in my younger years. He was always traveling here and there with my grandma, living what I envisioned as a very exciting and lavish life. Their home base was
In the past year, I had finally made up my mind to turn over a new leaf in that department, and I embarked upon an endeavor that gave grandpa and I some common ground: Masonry. I didn’t do it just for him, but I was glad that we now had something to ensure we would spend time together. Entering into Masonry necessarily involves the requirement of spending one on one time with other more experienced Masons, and whenever possible, I chose my grandpa. In what Masons refer to as esoteric work, I began to finally get to know who my grandpa was. How smart he was, how even tempered; his wit, his sincere care for his wife, myself, and family (even those of the feline persuasion). He wears his 84 years as though he were just barely entering retirement age, always smiling, laughing, helping with something.
When I finally completed my brisk walk of the hospital’s length (I parked at the wrong end of the facility…fancy that) and entered the room where they were still examining him, it was a completely foreign way to be seeing my grandpa. Whereas he was always the active one, the one helping somebody else, now it was his turn to receive the attention and assistance. And oh, how it grieved him so! I saw my beloved, strong grandpa weep multiple times that day. Not out of self-pity, but for the worry that others had over him and the time they were taking out of their own schedules for his sake. When he cried, I would be strong for him, put my hand on his shoulder, smile at him so he could see that I was there to fill in for whatever strength the stroke had temporarily taken away. My mind was set, and I told him so, that we would all overcome this together and press on as the happy loving family that we were no matter what it might require of us all. I was so glad for my own youth and strength and health so that I could lend it to him, that my abundance could be supply for his lack at that time, as his has been for me in past situations.
My grandma…she who is always so beautiful and elegant and graceful in every way; she really rose to the occasion as well, impressing me mightily. The love I always knew was there between them was more evident now than ever, as she tirelessly held his hand from her wheelchair, looked at him so lovingly and dear, smiled at him, and kept him energized by her amazing love for him. He reciprocated, and though few words were spoken between them, the air between their mutual gazes was alive. Her stamina, which normally is quite short due to her progressing Parkinsons, was as good or better than my own; her speech, which is normally not more than a whisper (again, due to her Parkinsons) was quite audible and clear. Though my grandpa may not see it right now, his unfortunate illness has brought out so much good and strength in everyone around him…his weakness, his lacking, has given those around him who love him so such a blessed opportunity to give back…there honestly can be so much beauty in tragedy, such that the tragic event itself is paled in comparison and appears as nothing more than an insignificant thing that should soon be forgotten.
This is the second day since my grandpa realized he was having a stroke when he couldn’t lift his spoon of cereal to his mouth, but the sadness that plagued him yesterday has been set aside, and he even walked a couple hundred feet today down the hall of the hospital wing. Tomorrow my mom and Aunt will arrive to see their father and perform the happy duty of a child to their aging parents, and I am excited to see them as well. I was my mother’s eyes, ears, voice, and arms while she couldn’t be here, and I feel very privileged to have fulfilled that role for her. I’m glad I was here when my grandpa got sick, and I will continue to offer myself to them all for the love I have for them, most especially grandpa.
There is nothing more beautiful, satisfying, nor purposeful than to give yourself for the sake of another. May I encourage everyone who reads this to consider those who are nearest and dearest to them, and even those who aren’t but should be, and take advantage of the precious moments you have so that when all is said and done (and it will eventually be), you will have no regrets.