Grandpa At His Best

I had been running around all morning figuring out how to FedEx my suit overnight so I’d have it in time.

When I opened the door to the room, there he was, laying on a single bed, on his side, knees bent, hands flat together, snugly tucked under his cheek. He lay there grinning, in an almost feminine pose.

Hazel let go of my hand and lept onto the bed. She lay across his tummy and sang him the birthday song.

But it wasn’t his birthday, that wasn’t his bed, and this wasn’t his room. He’d never done anything in a feminine way, and, if Hazel had actually met him and had the chance to jump up onto that bed in a room I’d never known, he wasn’t the type of guy to stroke a little girl’s forehead. He certainly never stroked mine.

Nonetheless, this is the dream I woke up with, the first image of my day.

And it has me smiling.

Does it matter that it never happened, that it never would?

The kind moments with my grandpa were few and far between. He was always sending us outside to play, complaining about the mess we made.

But I remember his laugh. (Anyone who ever met him, remembers that laugh.) And we did have a few gentle conversations when I was in college. He’d grown his hair long and white, which I thought was cool. And he asked me what I was interested in. Trying to impress him, I said Black History. He mentioned some book that he aimed to give to me. We were walking slowly and I had his full attention. It was strange and by the time I was acclimating to it, we were out of things to talk about.

A moment of compassion from a man I barely knew, proof that a sea of kindness existed within him, like a warm hot spring beneath the dry, cracked earth.

And though that warmth rarely bubbled up to reach us on the surface, it was good to know it was there.

80 years of toughness undone in a single conversation…

remembered 30 years later…

and now changing the course of the day for a middle-aged grandson who, through his own dance with destiny, has developed the same loud, unforgettable laugh.

Hazel stayed on the bed. Without really even knowing him, she hugged him so tight he looked over at me, the one who brought this child to him.

And he laughed, as only he can do.

I stood in the doorway, trying to take it all in before anything else could take it away.

Hey, grampa.

Good to see you.