A to Z Challenge: Roy

A character sketch of a real person I wish I had known better.

Roy was my grandfather. I am trying to think if it’s anyone’s fault that I did not know him better. How well does communication ever cross that much generational gap? I remember behaviors, but I was always left guessing as to what they meant. My grandfather is a series of snapshots in time.

In my childhood he was the smallish, white haired man who sat reading in his chair in the corner of the living room. We visited for Sunday dinner every week. While the adults visited or napped, I would read exciting stories in Grandpa’s Sports Illustrated and do sketches of deer.

His other place was a certain chair at the table – always the same one. The refrigerator was behind him, with the radio on top of it. Before meals, he would come in from working outside and wash up at a small sink just inside the kitchen door. His razor strap hung on the wall beside the sink. He would look at himself in the mirror on the wall. These snapshots do not have words to go with them. I don’t remember hearing him speak – ever, although I’m sure he did.

Although I don’t remember him laughing or talking with me, I don’t remember him as being fearsome or unkind either. I have no idea what he thought of me. He evidently did not mind having me around because I remember being allowed to go with him and Grandma to visit relatives overnight.

As a teen, I was often at my grandparent’s house but grandpa was usually outside working in the barn, fixing things. I would be sent to fetch him for a meal. Did I ever wonder what he was fixing and ask him questions? Should I have?

He let me use his car on the day I took the test for my driver’s license. His car was newer than ours and had an automatic shift and power windows. I had not driven it before that day and had no idea how to release the parking brake. I didn’t pass. I wonder if he was worried about his car. He must have cared about me to let me borrow it.

When Grandpa started having trouble with macular degeneration he got even more silent. He didn’t talk about it in my presence but he began to seem frustrated and angry from that time on. He couldn’t read anymore and couldn’t drive (legally). When Grandma died, he still insisted on staying on at the farm. Sensory deprivation may have been taking its toll on him, hastening signs of dementia. Someone would stop in and set out some lunch for him, which he would eat. Someone else would come a little later and set out lunch for him again. He would eat that too, and not recall having two meals.

My father was very close to his dad and was worried sick about him being alone. I tried to have Grandpa spend time with me and my family, but that ended up with him being frustrated and embarrassed. One day he went into the bathroom and couldn’t remember that the light switch was on the wall. It was dark, his eyesight was poor. He flailed around with his hands where he knew the fixture was and hit the hanging lamp and broke it, sending glass all over the floor and counter. He was so upset he stomped out of the house, across the field and up to the woods. Dad had to hunt for him and bring him back.

Grandpa finally, unwillingly, submitted to moving into a care center. Eventually he broke a hip and died from complications. I don’t know if my grandfather was satisfied with his life, whether he had hope for a life after death or any relationship with God at all.

They say that everyone you ever meet in life has a part in making you who you are, even apart from genetics. I think my time with grandfather has made me want to notice the young people around me and make sure they can know me if they want to. I’m going to write and talk about how I feel about life, my relationships, my faith. I don’t want my descendants wondering who I was.

Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

Being Known

“You know when I sit and when I rise.  You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:2,3

 I was scrolling down through Facebook and came upon a video of a young man who was visiting his mother in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients. He was sitting with her at a table as she ate her ice cream, asking her questions about her life and family, trying to jog her memory to remember him. She couldn’t. He went out to his car to finish the video and the tears were streaming down his face. It was a devastating thought, that his own mother did not know who he was.

This from mollysmovement.com, YouTube video series.

So I spent some time thinking about the importance of being remembered by those who know us well, especially those who have the most reason to love us. We allow the concept of “being known” to shape us probably more than we realize.  Love, from someone who knows our faults as well as our good attributes, can give us a strong platform from which to love ourselves in spite of the ups and downs we experience in careers, in relationships, in accomplishments of all kinds.

Memorizing scripture has been an eye-opening experience for me lately. Verses like the one above from Psalm 139 suddenly seem close and relevant to everyday life. There was a person, a writer, who felt this way about God – that he was intimately known by his creator. I could see and feel the comfort in that. God was not going to get Alzheimer’s, or run away, or die, or become inaccessible in any way that a person could. It was his perception of God based on his personal experience, but it holds hope for anyone who spends time getting to know who God really is.

These verses could give rise to a lot of questions, and those would be good questions to put to one claiming to be Creator of the universe. Creating beings capable of thought is something we haven’t quite figured out yet, not for lack of trying (hello, Artificial Intelligence). Knowing what those beings are thinking would be the next step and David thought God could do it. I do too, just sayin’…