Granddad loved ice cream. Once, at the starry end of evening–family supper having ended–he learned to his dismay that he was out of ice cream. With earnest conviction he said, “Well I better go to the store!” Never mind that it was ten o’clock at night; a barren freezer was unconscionable.
Granddad loved people more than ice cream; loved them to the soul. When he met someone for the first time he would find out who their relations were, or neighbors or friends, and most every time found that he knew someone they knew. A college girl was in Jackson Hole just long enough to help her friend move from Oklahoma City. Within five minutes of meeting her, Granddad discovered that her dad had ridden to high school with my dad.
To him, children were as worthy of attention as anyone else. He would have a game of catch with them or wrestle as long as his health allowed, or if he was deep in conversation with adults, he’d at least give a kid a wink.
He remembered names and faces and could tell you the family tree of nearly anyone he had met. And he remembered dates like he was looking at a calendar. “Oh yes, your grandparents came to visit us in Dallas the summer of ‘76. Let’s see, they got there on Thursday and Lois made an apple pie for dessert,” he would tell some young man he had just met at church.
He loved God, and the Word of God. With that steel trap mind he could preach straight from the Bible without looking. Among the many scriptures he would often quote, I remember 1st Timothy the most.
“…Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus…”–He would put special emphasis on this last part–“…who hath abolished death! and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
At his funeral, an older woman I hold in high esteem told me, “He was the best man I ever knew.”
But what I really want to tell you about is the love he had for his wife.
Grandmother had alzheimer’s. For awhile she thought Granddad was her dad, so he couldn’t love her the way a husband loves a wife. A peck on the cheek would traumatize her. He slept in a separate bedroom. It was hard for him, having to love her secretly.
She got worse. Confused. Incontinent. Unable to express a complete thought. Mostly helpless.
Every morning–EVERY morning–for a span of four or five years, Granddad would get her out of bed, clean her, dress her, and walk her to her chair in the living room. He would fix her hair and apply her make-up. He would cut up fresh fruit, blend it into a smoothie, deliver it with a straw to her, and coax her to drink it. Only after he was satisfied she was comfortable and taking nourishment would he get himself dressed, shave, and fix himself breakfast. Day after day, year after year, he bestowed his love upon this person who could never return his devotion, and he relished it! He grumbled about the aches of old age. He grumbled about the ways of the world. I never heard him complain about caring for his wife. To him, she was never a burden. Loving her was a privilege and a joy. When she took her last breath, part of him went with her.
Love is not a fairy tale. It’s not a Hollywood movie. It’s real, and I got to watch it.