Friday, July 2, 2010

Old Folks

Any of you, who have ever had the privilege of having extended family live with you, should appreciate the complexities and humor that naturally develops as a direct result of their presence in an already over-crowded home.  I never thought of our family being one of these until I brought up the Fastnot family (name has been changed to protect identity, kinda.)  They had one grandpa and one adopted grandpa living with them.  They were so gracious an loving I told my mother we should be like them, not realizing that we had done just that for most of my life!  My paternal grandfather (Dad's dad), and my maternal grandmother (mom's mom).

Grandpa was the first.  With an almost bald head, which had upon it a rather odd absence of skin.  I was convinced, probably due to an older brother, that he had a metal plate in his head from the war.  He was never in the war, but it was my story and I was sticking to it.  Grandpa was a smoker; had been since he was 11.  On the national, 'get your act together and tell someone to get off their duff and stop smoking' day, I thought of him.  However, I never had the courage to say anything.  He was the man I'd been taught to respect even though he took too long in the restroom, smelled funny, and wouldn't share the only color TV in the house.  He was a gracious man who took his smoking outdoors... in the walker... down the stoop... over the grass (next to the pile of burnt rolls).  I never asked him.  Why didn't I?  After a series of heart attacks and gangrene he passed away.  But in doing so, he never left me.  We inherited the color TV, the lift chair... and the memories of a soul that touched me so deeply as to leave a place in my heart for the kiss I couldn't give upon returning from the second grade.

Grandma was next a few years later.  She came for a visit, and never left.  During my most impressionable years of middle and high school.  The crazy woman who was afraid of anything that flew, that might drink the mouth wash, whose opinion made no sense but was not worth fighting filled the bed in which grandpa used to sleep.  She had a job, was it really wise?  She drove, even more questionable.  She was the one who taught patience in drove.  She was the one who rinsed her dentures in her milk at the dinner table.  The grandparent whose politics and logic left the mind reeling as to its relevance and truth.  She drove friends home, warning us of the frigid temperature, and how the heat didn't work, so we might want to roll down the windows.  This is the woman, who made shirts into head tubins and bras on the outside of her wardrobe.  The woman who went for a walk and returned with a police escort from the far reaches of the county.  This is the crackpot who tried to scale the grandma play pen, and relieved herself in the trashcan.  A woman who tested my own mother's sanity to such an extreme as to leave us wondering who the men in white jackets would be taking away.  A woman whose memory of yesteryear rivaled that of a sage and whose recollection of the days' events were reminiscent of her days of being a babe in arms.  And to such a woman as this, I offer all the love of my heart.  For in the days when she had long since lost her voice, and mother was not able to tend to her needs, her response to a gentle word brought an innocence and purity, a wisdom and goodness that I have not seen since.  She had returned as a child to a moment of bright eyes and gratitude, and I saw her as does God.

So to everyone who suffers with extended family's near and constant presence, who bears the burden of un-rearing a parent and accepts and loves them and teaches that love to the following generation, I tip my hat, I offer my gratitude, for such love can be the key to binding the generations for eternity.

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