I’m a “Daddy’s Girl.” With that said, the person that I wanted to marry as I was growing up was my Grandfather. Smokey. Nic-named that, as a boy, for shooting out the lights that lined the streets in Black Earth, Wisconsin. My Grandpa wasn’t always the best husband, or so the stories went. But he was always such an example of gentle strength and valor... in the eyes of this little girl. And my Grandma matched him as a companion. Both amazing people with amazing lives and stories to tell. I had amazing Grandparents who had a profound impact on my life. As I have gotten older…and they have gotten older, I have realized more and more how they have shaped the person I am.
My Grandmother has been declining with Alzheimer's as the years have progressed. And my Grandfather, the stalwart man that I always thought him to be, has truly stepped up to the plate to be her knight in shining armor. I have seen every other person around her show frustration, tiredness, aggravation, exhaustion (all understandable). Never once have I seen the slightest hint of any of these things in my Grandfather’s countenance. And how amazing it would be for someone to pull this off, and be so proud of themselves. But my Grandfather doesn’t even know that he has anything to feel proud of. He doesn’t feel aggravated or short changed, while managing to work through it and be the person he knows he should be. He doesn’t put on a smile in an attempt to be gallant. He simply is. When thinking about this as I sat with them one day, I pointed out to my Grandpa how happy Grandma is, and asked him if he realized that this is often not how people in her position feel. He was confused. He truly didn’t know. I guess he assumed that every aging woman who is constantly confused is madly in love with her husband? Maybe he even thought that she was in love because she was confused? She is, in fact, in love (more in love than I have ever seen her) because he is lovable. Absolutely adorably lovable. He goes along with her stories and plays with her and flirts with her and does anything he can do to make her feel happy. My Grandmother started humming (almost beatboxing) as the dementia has gotten worse. It’s quite cute at times. Her, just sitting there to her own rhythm, smiling at my Grandfather. And then she’ll stop and begin to tell me how much her and Smokey love each other, how much in love they have always been, and how they have never fought a day in their whole life (not even close to true, mind you). One time, during this conversation, I got my Grandfather’s attention and pointed out that Grandma was telling me how happy they have always been and how they have never fought a day in their marriage. Grandpa just smiled and agreed (winking to me), telling me how much they do love each other. He then told me their nightly routine. Grandma lays down for the night and begins making her “mouth music”. He laughs and tells her, “ok Gene, time to sleep. No more singing”. She laughs back, and agrees to stop. And then she begins to tell him how much she loves him, how thankful she is for him, how they have always been so happy and never fought. My Grandmother goes to bed happy each night, laying beside the love of her life, because of the love that that very man consistently shows her.
My Grandpa couldn’t have lived up to my beliefs in him any more than he is. They are both so lucky to have had this life together. I am so grateful to know that they will be together in the next life.
In the mean time, I will be praying for my Grandmother, that as she gets more confused and more physically ill, she will not feel alone. I pray that she will continue to feel loved and in love. I pray that she will have peace. And for my dear Grandfather, I pray that he will feel lifted with a sweet strength that love brings. That he will feel peace with the things which are going to happen. And that he will feel the truth that their love won’t end as my Grandma passes on. The love that has grown in the past few years will not be lost. They will be together. Grandma might not remember who he is today, but she will know who he is for the eternities to come. What a King and Queen they have turned out to be.