It is almost a cliche, but as I began writing this post about my grandparents the theme to Schindler’s List began playing on my iTunes. Just a few years ago I had four grandparents, or should I say four LIVING grandparents. In the blink of an eye I am down to two. It feels a little unfair.
This past weekend my grandfather took me aside to talk to me.
“Son, at this stage of the game I don’t know how much time I have left. Promise me that you’ll look after your grandmother.” It was hard for him to say it. I pretended not to see the teary eyes and assured him that I would.
“You know your parents are going to be gone a long time. I don’t know if it is going to be the last time I get to see them.”
I took grandpa’s hand in my own and reminded him that he never expected to live past fifty and he is almost 93.5. For a moment we sat there in silence. I tried to think of something that I could say that would ease his mind, but there wasn’t anything more that I could add.
It was hard. Most of his friends are dead, some long gone and others not so long. But still his contemporaries are disappearing at a rapid clip. Sometimes there is such sadness in his eyes. He’ll tell a story about things he did and gradually trail off as he realizes that his crew isn’t around any more to relive the tales.
Don’t get me wrong. More often than not I see him smiling. His great-grandchildren make him beam with pride. And from time to time I can see him take pleasure in my stories.
“Jack, now you understand what your father and grandfathers did. Now you know what it means to be a family man, a provider. You understand the fear, the pleasure and the pain.”
His praise means a lot to me. How can it not. I still enjoy hearing his stories and sharing my own. I feel fortunate to have had as much time with him as I have. Some of my fondest memories of him and my other grandfather have come within the last ten years or so.
They are moments in time in which we spoke as adults about our careers.
Things that happened sixty years ago still happen in the same manner as today. The challenge of being the sole provider for a family is no different than it once was. Some things transcend time. I cherish the moments I had and those that I still get.
I won’t lie and say that I am not distressed by comments about how much time he has left. They don’t bother me as much as when he gets upset about not being able to take care of my grandmother as he once did. I can empathize. I can imagine the frustration of not being physically able to do what I once did. I write about it now. I bitch and moan about aches and pains that don’t quite go away as fast as they used to.
But, I am not 93. I can only imagine that they are more pronounced for him. To use his own line, “at this stage of the game” I want to make life as easy I can for him. So I’ll do what I can to ease his mind and we’ll see what happens. It makes me sad to think that one day I won’t have his counsel anymore.