That well-used phrase that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is simply nonsense. I learned a couple new things today. What surprises me is that some of the things I’m learning are old things that I didn’t understand.
Take my paternal grandfather. I never asked why he was never with the family (his family) for thanksgiving dinner. We always went over the river, across a bridge, and through the woods to get to grandmother’s house. This grandma was tall (everyone in my dad’s family are tall), and classy. That’s why I was so surprised one year to discover she was serving ‘rotten’ olives for thanksgiving dinner. I told my mom, and she explained that they were not rotten, they were black olives and I’d like them. I do.
I eventually learned that my grandma and grandpa did not live together anymore. They had six children, four girls and two boys. Four of the six had nothing to do with their father anymore, only my dad and one sister ever saw him.
I don’t even know where he lived but I knew he was a house painter. This is what I just learned today. The story that a lot of painters are alcoholics, is true. Some painters wear protective masks because if they don’t, the lacquer ‘goes straight to the painter’s brain’. When they come off the high, it causes raging headaches, and they get drunk getting rid of the headache. I did not know that until today and I’m 77 years old. Slow learner, huh?
So all this information came to light because I was remembering a time, years ago, when my grandfather lived with us. We lived in a tiny house, and I have no idea where he slept, unless he slept in the basement. Bare cement walls and floor, but a fine place to play. I felt sorry for my grandpa, because at mealtime, when we had a meal, the only thing he could eat was bread soaked in milk.
I was only about nine or ten, and the day I remember was sunny and hot. A perfect time for me to set up a lemonade stand in front of our house. Grandpa often sat in the back yard in a lawn chair, soaking up the sun. So I asked Grandpa if he wanted to buy a glass of lemonade. He did and I was so happy.
One day grandpa got sick and had to go to the hospital in Minneapolis. Our family went to visit him in the hospital, that’s when I learned he had stomach cancer and was in a cancer hospital. He gave me a cute bunny rabbit made out of a facecloth, that he got on his dinner tray at Easter. A few months later, I was sad when Grandpa died and I couldn’t go to his funeral. I loved him and I know he loved me.
Why do all these memories mean so much to me right now? Why Grandma and Grandpa didn’t live together. Because now, I understand how a person can show love.
I started thinking about that time Grandpa lived with us. I finally realized that my father grew up with an alcoholic father, in a broken home. My father saw his parents marriage fall apart, in fact, the whole family fell apart. We went to see Grandma once or twice a year but certain people and certain topics were never mentioned.
Then, my father brought Grandpa into our house, looked after him, treated him with compassion and respect. I can’t help but think that was truly an act of love. I loved my grandpa and I know he loved me. He bought a glass of lemonade from me. I was so happy.
Don’t we have strange ideas about what love really is, and how to show love? I believe it means forgiving things from the past and being kind. I think it is even pouring your lemonade on the grass and letting your granddaughter think it tasted great. Just remembering that time I recognize the great love my father showed to his father. I recognize now, the great love Grandpa showed me.
Oh, what great love the ‘Father’ has lavished on us
that we should be called the sons of God.