This past weekend the children and I made our way up I-95 to attend my grandfather’s 83rd birthday celebration in New Jersey. I spent over 20 hours on the road going and returning, but it was well worth the visit. In the last few years, I’ve grown closer to my grandpa. When I was little, I loved spending time with him because he spoiled me rotten. I remember one summer, he bought me new clothes and always took me out to eat at one of his favorite diners. I was the only one of my siblings who stayed with him during that summer, and I loved all of the extra attention. Since, my father wasn’t involved in my life until I turned 15, my grandfather was the only male presence in my life as a child. When I think about it, he’s been the only consistent male in my life outside of my uncles.
So, when he shared with me the story of one of the times he took me to the diner when I was little this weekend, it warmed my heart. Out of all of his children and grandchildren, he remembered spending that time with me, and like he did when I was a little girl, he made me feel special.
As I’ve matured over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate my grandpa even more and the wisdom he tries to share with me. Before I got married, my husband and I went to his house, and he spoke with us for a couple of hours about marriage and his regrets about his life. He told us about how he regretted not taking time to enjoy his family over the years because he worked so much and how he should have spent more quality time with his wife, my step-grandmother Verna. She died in her fifties of cancer, and he told me how he regretted working so much and never taking the time to take her on a vacation. My grandpa shared with my husband and me that when he remarried to a woman who, too, passed away during the marriage, and went on his honeymoon, he cried the entire plane ride because he said he should have taken my grandmother Verna on vacation. That was the first time in my life my grandpa shared something so personal and emotional with me. In hindsight, I know the conversation was prophetic. It was a warning to make the most of every moment and to never take your loved ones for granted. Now that I, too, am widowed, my grandpa and I have more shared experiences. I, too, have the same regrets my grandpa expressed to me before I married. I, too, wish I’d spent more time cherishing my time with my husband.
My grandpa also spoke prophetically to me when I came forward for ministry. He wrote me a letter telling me how proud he was of me accepting the call, but warned me that if I wanted to reign with Christ that I also must suffer for Christ’s sake. Of course, I didn’t know at the time how true his words would be, but as I think back over the past few years, I know my grandpa was right. The call hasn’t come without much suffering and sacrifice. However, in the same vein, my grandpa’s resilience and life example show me that I, too, will make it and prosper despite tragedy.
When I told some people that I was making the 10-hour drive to New Jersey to celebrate my grandpa and see my biological, maternal grandma in the process, they thought I was crazy to travel such a long distance for only 24 hours. However, if I have learned anything in this life, it’s to never take the people you love for granted. God has used my grandpa over the years to be the paternal, authoritative voice in my life, and I thank God for that. My grandpa is not perfect and hasn’t lived the perfect life, but he strives every day to be the man God created him to be. That’s why I want to salute and honor my grandpa. He’ll always be the first man who won my heart.