Memories of My Grandpa

This weekend, while I was napping with our youngest son (17 months), I had a dream. I dreamt it was nighttime, and I was in my room, alone. I heard footsteps coming down the hall, and then I saw the faint outline of someone in the doorway, but I couldn’t quite make out who the person was in the darkness. But somehow, I knew that I didn’t need to be afraid. I studied the outline and then whispered, “Grandpa?” I stood up on the bed and ushered my paternal grandfather – who passed away several years ago – into the room, and when he came near, I embraced him and rested my head on his shoulder. And then, I woke up.

I sometimes think about my Grandpa, who we called Pop. He would have been a wonderful greatgrandfather, and he would have loved my boys so much. I know this because he was such a wonderful grandfather to me.

I can remember going to visit my Grandpa and Grandma in the little apartment building where they used to live. We would go in the back, where Grandpa had his workshop – a small room where he made all kinds of things by hand. Birdhouses. Dogs that he made by gluing golf balls together. Wood cutouts of different animals. Old chuckwagons that he remembered from when he was a kid, growing up on West Texas. My job was to do the detailed work that his bigger hands couldn’t manage. I would cut and tie bows to glue on the dogs. Draw faces on the animals. Paint the red and white checkers on the chuckwagons. As we’d work, I can remember being amazed by his hands, which were so large and yet so gentle.

I can remember how he loved my grandma. They had known each other as children, and he would tell me stories about how they used to stand on crates behind a large fence and watch the cattle drives going by in their hometown. They reconnected later in life and married. He loved my grandma dearly, and cared for her in her old age as her health steadily deteriorated. Every day he would drive to the nursing home to care for her, until her dying day.

I can remember how he always used to send me a birthday card. He never missed a year. And at Christmas, I can remember going to his apartment to help him write messages in Christmas cards to send to his friends and family. People he hadn’t seen in long, long time. As we would write, he’d tell me stories about them, and about his mother and father, and his childhood.

I can remember an old, worn cardigan that he used to wear. It was cornflower blue, and it made his eyes even bluer. When he died, I kept many of the wood carvings and cutouts and different things that he had made, and I also asked to have that old worn sweater. Every time I see it, I think of him in the last picture that I took of him. He was wearing that sweater and sitting in his old brown chair, his fingers interlaced and a smile in his eyes. In that picture, he looks kind, and that’s why I like it, because that’s who he was.

After I woke up from my dream, I couldn’t help but think about all of these things about my grandpa, even as I helped make a snack for the boys. As I was talking with my oldest son (3 ½), he said – totally out of the blue – “Mommy, while you were napping, I heard footsteps down the hall, but I looked and it wasn’t you.” I stopped what I was doing to look at him. “It wasn’t you,” he repeated, and he started eating his snack. I didn’t ask him any questions, or probe into what he meant. I just wondered about all of the things in this world that can’t be explained.

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