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My Grandfather's Treasure
by Matt Williamson
2007-08-21 09:52:11
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I sat for a couple of hours with my grandfather recently. It has been a long time since I was able to spend so much time alone with him. When I was young I would spend entire days with him as he drove here and there working and looking for the bargains that he cared so much about. I would spend an afternoon with him in the yard, digging this or that, him with a shovel and me with his World War II Army issue entrenching tool. You know the little one that soldiers get to dig fox-holes with. It was mine and I loved it. I loved that it folded, I loved that it was small, but most of all I loved that it was his and now it was mine. I need to find that shovel.

I was sitting with him now because he is in the hospital. The blue faux leather chair creaked as I tried to get comfortable while he slept there beside me. He's ill and his mind isn't doing him justice right now. He knows me, knows the family including my small children, and I am thankful for that. But he can go from speaking to me about the kids and their school to trying to pick a peach from a tree which isn't there or telling my grandmother she missed the turn-off to number 12.

I wish I knew what number 12 meant to him.

The bed is his passenger seat in the car and where my grandmother was sitting is the driver's seat. If you insist that there is no car, that we are in the hospital, and he needs to get better he is incensed and tries to get out of bed and to the driver's seat. That didn't help much at all.

I love him so much, and it is very hard to see someone so strong and virile reduced to this feeble state. He needs you to feed him, to wipe his mouth and to help him find a comfortable way to lie on the bed. He is irritable and cranky, and I would be too.

I stood there with him a few nights ago after my grandmother had gone downstairs to the car. I tried to calm him down as the nurses place mitts on his hands. If he is left alone right now he tries to pull the IV out of his arm, the oxygen and pulse reader off of his finger and to get out of the bed. None of those are good things.

When the nurses came in to get the mitts on he was infuriated with me, told me terrible things and told me to leave and that I need not return. The nurses told me to forget about what he said and that it wasn't him; I already knew that.

My grandfather is a kind and loving person. The kind of guy that tears up when the little ones are sick and the kind of man who hugs people the first time he meets them. Yes, he is human, and like all of us he too is capable of anger and words said that he later regrets.

While he was reaching for some cantaloupes which he could clearly see in front of his face I wondered what this was like to him. He is seeing people and places from his past. Speaking about Marion Kansas where he lived for 8 months in 1950 when my father was born. Asking us all how much longer until we get to Missouri or back to the house - these things are real to him, even though the television is on and we are all standing around his bed in the ICU.

It made me think of the 'thought-moments' that the Buddha spoke about. The knowledge that every thought that enters our mind causes a change in us and a lasting difference in who we are and how we view the world.

I wondered about the thoughts, the memories that were bubbling up in to my grandfather's consciousness before me. He was talking about his car for a bit, so worried that a man had it and he needed it back. He told me to make sure I had his car and I knew where it was, that it was safe and secure.

My grandfather is a treasure to me. He is full of wisdom and knowledge and kindness. He is a huge part of my life, the lives of my entire family, and the lives of my children. You know, I don't think he missed a baseball or basketball game my brother played in and he only missed a few of my son's, when he was ill a few years back. His family is the most important thing to him, we are his treasure.

As our nation ages I wish our culture viewed the aging as the national treasure they are, not as a burden. It is true that this is hard to watch, this is hard to handle. Costly in time and money I know, but can you think of a better purchase? Spending our money on the comfort of our elderly is something we should do with love and kindness, with respect and warmth, not regret and bitterness as so many seem to do.

We might all end up one day in that hospital bed, wondering about the peach tree growing in the room with our family. If I do, I hope my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather around me and ask me about my childhood like we are asking about his.

I don't have much in the coffer, but I have a treasure nonetheless.

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Asa2007-08-21 10:09:08
After Judy's 'Poverty' article and now this, I think our readers will be using copious amounts of tissues to dry those tears.

Thanks for sharing this, Matt.

Clint2007-08-21 11:49:15
Everybody who reads your piece will be deeply touched by your expression of love for your Grandfather but only a few will be able express their sadness in print. I lost my Grandad 31 years ago but he still remains in my mind and your article has shown me just how much he is still in my heart. If my Grandchildren end up thinking of me as you do of yours then my spirit will float through eternity very happy indeed.

Matt Williamson2007-08-21 18:11:56
Thank you both.

That is a beautiful sentiment Clint, if we all placed as much value as you and I do on our family the world would be better I am sure.

To take that one step further, if we all realized that everyone is our family, can you image wars or crime? I think that we would see society change overnight if we all viewed every man, woman or child as our father, mother, son or daughter.

Jack2007-08-21 21:14:23
You are right Matt...everyone is our family. The world would be a much different place if we would. I am a realitively young grandfather of two boys, 1 & 5, and would not trade these experiences with them for anything in the world. These are the times that really matter. They are priceless.

Thanks for such a touching article.

LL2007-08-21 23:36:15
you are a lucky man Matt.

Paparella2007-08-22 00:23:12
What a poignant and inspiring tribute to a grandfather, and indeed all grandfathers. No doubt grandfathers are one of life’s greatest treasures. I was lucky to have my paternal grandfather for 27 years of my life. He died at 92 broken-hearted over the death of his elder son, my father, who died the previous year at 55. That’s life, the sweet is mixed with the bitter, but the important thing is to remain grateful!

II2007-08-23 19:18:38
keep strong

Alexandra Pereira2007-08-23 19:23:38
Thank you for sharing this with us, Matt. I know its a hard time for you. Lost my father, age 58, 13 days ago. In this case, it was hard to see his last moments - I agree with you that serious disease disfigures people, they are not whom we want to recall nor the way we want to remember them anymore, they are not what's in our memories. One has to be very brave. My grandfather, age 85, keeps lucid and healthy, and faced the death of his only son with so much strength...

Diana2007-08-24 05:48:27
This is just beautiful Matt.

Thank you OVI for finding him for us.

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