Archive for November 6th, 2007

Things left undone

When your grandfather is 85 and in failing health, you hurry to ask him every little question you might have, no matter how seemingly unimportant. It’s another ugly manifestation of the dreaded biological clock. You just have a desperate desire to know everything about him, all his thoughts and ideas and his collected wisdom, and you know you don’t have much time.

While visiting with my grandfather last night, and walking his dogs at dusk, I happened to ask him about all the telephone poles laying around on the property.

If you knew my grandpa, you’d think that he was a junk collector, or a man who just lets things pile up (or in the case of my great-grandmother’s house, fall down). But I’ve learned this summer that, although he doesn’t say much, his mind is always working, planning, thinking and evaluating, and when he gives me a glimpse of his inner thoughts, I’m always amazed and impressed by his multi-faceted intelligences. So I’ve learned to just ASK him about things, silly things, trivial things, and then be amazed by the sensible and nontrivial responses I get.

Back to the telephone poles. The story goes that, when Southern Bell came through to replace the telephone poles several years ago, Grandpa asked them to leave six on his property.

“Well,” he said, “I looked at them, and thought they sure would make a fine pole barn. And that’s what I wanted to do with them, build myself a pole barn to house my tractors and implements.”

“Where were you going to put the barn?”

“I wanted somewhere level, without any standing water, and close by the garden, convenient for the tractors, so I was going to put it on the other side of the beechnut tree….”

And then he paused, and said, “…but I guess that’s just another thing I planned to do, but won’t get around to doing.” He sounded sad, and I could tell that he was thinking of many other things he had wanted to do over the years but wouldn’t have a chance, now that his time, or at least his strength, is running short.

I know, Grandpa. Even at my age, I know how it can grieve someone to realize that their plans will not come to fruition. And maybe I’m the only one in the family who can really sympathize deep down the loss of dreams and plans. Maybe that’s something I can offer to my grandfather. I can answer him, in my heart, with my own grief and empathy, and maybe my hugs and reassurances could echo back to him,

“I had wanted to give you great-grandchildren to bounce on your knee. Strong and curious children who would marvel at your many abilities and think that you were the coolest grandfather around, because you had two tractors and could build your own barns. I wanted to give you the joy of knowing that your memory will be cherished and preserved for more generations, that your family will grow as strong and healthy as your garden….but I guess that’s just another thing I planned to do, but won’t get around to doing.”

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