The vibration of the wheels on the old hardwood floors brought a silence to the house. As everyone gathered around, grandpa rolled into the living room. The Parkinson’s had slowed him down physically. Well, slowed is not the right word – he suffered from the jerking and bobbing that comes with the disease – his movements were very fast, he just couldn’t direct them in any reasonable manner.
He still had all his wits though. At 95 years old – he had the sharpest tongue of anyone I had ever known.
I reached out and hugged his neck when he came near. Though I tried not to, the tears brimmed in my eyes. As I leaned over, I stepped on the brake of his wheelchair. Knowing that I had done so brought a mock punch to my nose – and at the last moment – it became a poorly executed tweak – to which he said only “Beep.”
His life was one of joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. For as long as I could remember, his raucous laughter carried throughout the room – any room where he was.
The newest great-grandchild was only 5 weeks old, and he was mine. With great pleasure, I placed the boy in grandpa’s lap. Standing there to make sure that my son did not bounce too much with the shaking of the disease taking over grandpa’s body, I saw his tears welling up. With his arthritic, gnarled hands laid across the baby’s chest, he leaned down to kiss him. Though he tried, his head was just too unsteady. I cupped the back of grandpa’s neck in one hand, his chin in the other and helped him brush his lips lightly across the infant’s forehead.
He smiled at me and leaned back to allow me to retrieve the baby. As I handed the baby off to my wife – grandpa reached for the wheels so that he could move toward the dining room. I kicked off the wheel brake at just the right time and he began to roll.
With seven grown children, 23 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren and the spouses – the house was full – wall to wall. They began to part like the Red Sea. This image was not lost on grandpa; he grabbed his cane that was hanging on the back of the wheelchair and waved it out in front while he passed through.
Thanksgiving with my family.
Taking his place at the head of the table signaled everyone to take their seats. With the main dining table seating only 10, there were a number of card tables set up throughout the living area and parlor. Bowls of vegetables were loaded on each table; plates and silverware stacked on a corner along with a pitcher of iced tea.
Folding chairs scraped across the floors as everyone took seats. When all was quiet, grandpa spoke.
“I’m thankful for this wonderful family, grandma’s cooking and my Savior, who better hurry up and finish preparing a place for me!” He looked at grandma to continue, who mentioned a paid-in-full mortgage and the three healthy great-grandchildren born this year.
As was the tradition, everyone in attendance named something for which they were thankful. Yo-yos, new bikes and school breaks to Christmas presents not yet received, and everything in between were mentioned. Grandpa followed the progression in rapt attention from one table to the next, hanging on every word spoken in gratitude.
As the last table finished, all eyes fell on grandma.
She arose and entered the kitchen through the swinging doors. When she emerged, she carried the turkey. The smell made my mouth begin to water. Placing the platter in front of grandpa, he smiled as his head rolled from side to side. Grandma’s hand over grandpa’s on the electric knife meant that he would carve the turkey at least one more year.
As soon as the first cut was made, the chairs rattled as everyone grabbed lined up with plate in hand to get turkey. It was like an assembly line, once the first slice was laid on a plate, then came the dressing, mashed potatoes and grandma’s homemade gravy over everything. Each person then made their way back to their particular table to get their vegetables and drink.
All served, all seated, grandpa asked the blessing. “Amen” echoed through the house.
Silverware clanked and Thanksgiving dinner was underway.
As I looked around at the family, I pushed down the knot in my throat and thanked God that grandpa was still with us.