Grandpa and Me (Penny Rader)

This month’s theme is If you could have personally witnessed one event in history, what would you want to have seen & why?

I hope you don’t mind if I take it in a slightly different direction.  Instead of picking one historical event, I’d go back to the first half of 1971.  I would play more with Grandpa, my mom’s dad.  I would snuggle more and play games and ask him to read to me. His birthday was the day before mine.  I don’t remember if we celebrated our birthdays together that year, as we sometimes did.  But if I had the power to go back in time, we would have a blowout b-day celebration, even if it was just the two of us.

I don’t remember when Grandpa got sick or when I realized something was terribly, horribly wrong.  For the life of me I cannot remember the last time I saw him alive or what we were doing and that really bugs me.  I do remember he was in the hospital the summer of 1971.  I loved spending time with him.  He had the best, most genuine smile. I don’t remember him ever being grouchy. At one time he had a car dealership.  Once, when Grandma and Mom told us we were going to Winfield to see Grandpa, I thought we were going to a place full of fields.  Some kind of magical fields, I guess, because we lived in the country and I had certainly seen plenty of wheat fields.  Imagine my surprise when I realized Winfield was just a town and not a mass of magical fields.  But it didn't matter because we got to see Grandpa.

 If I had the power to go back in time I would find a way to sneak into the hospital every day Grandpa was there.  Even if the hospital had strict policies about kids not visiting.  Even if maybe he wasn't exactly up for company.  Contrary to public knowledge, I can be quiet.  Stop laughing and shaking your head.  I really, truly can be quiet when I have to.  If I were able to visit and had to be quiet, I would sit beside him.  I would hold his hand and whisper to him that I loved him.  Whispering counts as being quiet, doesn't it?

July 26, 1971 was my first experience with heart-wrenching grief.  One of my sisters and I shared a room.  My brother had his own room.  We also had a baby sister.  I can’t remember if she was sharing our room yet because she was just a bit over a year old.  I heard the phone ring late, long after we went to bed.  It may have been 10 pm.  Nothing good ever came from calls that came after 10 pm. Way down deep in my soul I knew something bad had happened.  It took me a while to gather the courage to leave my bed and open the door to the living room.  One of my cousins was there.  Mom and Dad had gone to the hospital.  Pretty soon all three of us oldest kids were in the living room.  Our cousin didn't make us go back to bed.  I don’t remember what we did or if we talked.  We probably watched TV, though this was long before cable.  We had four channels and they did not have all-night programming into the wee hours.

Seems like hours passed.  Another cousin came to take over babysitting duty. (We were never short on cousins.  Dad is the second youngest of seventeen kids, so I have a bazillion cousins.)  Mom and Dad finally came home.  Something terrible and horrible had indeed happened.  Grandpa had died.  My brother and sister and I gathered into a circle, hugging and quietly crying.  I think we probably even slept in the same bed, unable to let go of each other because we were so sad.  I’m not sure my brother and sister completely understood what had just happened.  Of course, being a kid, I don’t think it occurred to me how much it rocked my mom’s world to lose her daddy.  I hope I gave her lots of extra love and hugs.  Much of that time is fuzzy.  And being a kid, I was probably all wrapped in missing my grandpa and not thinking about anyone else.

So even though this month’s topic isn't exactly about wishes, this is my wish: I wish I could have told Grandpa good-bye and made absolutely, positively sure he knew how much I loved him.  And I wish my baby sister could have had the chance to know him.

(I mean no disrespect to my dad’s father.  He died when I was three and most of my memories begin when I was five.  Note to self:  Ask Mom and Dad to share stories and memories about their parents and siblings.  I was blessed to have grandmas who lived into their 90s, but there’s too much I don’t know about our family history.)


So.... if you could have personally witnessed one event in history, what would you want to have seen & why?


Becky A said...

Okay, Penny, now you've got me sniffling.
This months topic is a tough one and now you've added another avenue to explore. I hadn't thought about going back in my time.
Sounds like your Grandpa was a good one. I'll bet he always knew how much you loved him.

Pat Davids said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. Loved it.

Joan Vincent said...

Penny, as Becky said you've opened a new way of thinking about the topic. Opened so many possiblities. Thanks for sharing your Grandpa with us.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks Becky, Pat, and Joan. Seeing Grandpa again was the first thing that popped into my head while I was trying to decide what to write about.

My mom read it through facebook and asked me for a copy. Made my day when she told me how much the post meant to her. After I survive tax season I want to give Mom the copy she requested as well as soak up as many stories as she wants to tell me. :D