That's what I said to my mother today in the car as we were driving in Montgomery on our way to make one stop and then hit the nursing home. I just wasn't in the mood for the old people. Now, please don't feel that I'm being disrespectful when I call them that... it's just something my mother and I have said for years. I would ask, "How are they?" after she had been to see them, and her answer was always, "They're old." So we started referring to them as the old people, and it just sort of stuck. Even in their old age, they both have a gleaming sense of humor, and I would actually say it in front of them and have no doubt they would chuckle.
Anywho... wasn't in the mood for old people today. For about the past week, I've been feeling the urge to go shopping, plundering through stuff, look around. I don't know why. Maybe it's the change of season, maybe it's this really cool blog I recently found which leaves me wanting to get over my anxiety of thrift stores, or maybe a combination of a bunch of things. But visiting the nursing home just didn't sound like fun today, and I was hinting that we skip the visit and do something fun.
Mom didn't bite, and I'm very glad she didn't.
My grandfather has always been a man of few words and rare emotion. But in the past few visits, he just seems so sentimental, so eager to say I love you, so open to a hug. He muses about the meaning of life. He talks about how he misses when the whole family got together at the house. He misses home, the life he used to have, the one I'm pretty certain he took for granted and didn't realize would change as much as it has. For the first time ever, I see my grandfather as a person, not just my grandfather, and I feel this empathy welling up inside of me for where he is in life. He's trapped in this weird place, one in which he really has no freedom or home, in the biggest waiting room of all, waiting for the end to come.
My grandfather never sat still. Well not unless he had a bowl of ice cream or cut up cantaloupe. He had a garden in the backyard when I was little with beans, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, and muscadine vines. He piddled in his shed. He worked for a rent-a-car place picking up cars in different cities and driving them back to Montgomery. He went somewhere to play bingo, and all I understood about it as a child was that it wasn't somewhere ladies should go. He had this pillow thing that stayed on the ground in the back den of their house, and late in the afternoon, he'd lie down there on the beige carpet and get still enough to drift off to sleep. He took me and my little cousin for walks around the block, pushing her in a little umbrella stroller while I totted along on the side. He loved deeply but silently. He worked hard and slept hard. He never stilled his body unless he had to.
Today, I looked across the glass top table at this old man, deep wrinkles lining his face, eyes watering at the thoughts of times gone by and not to come again, and I realized that he is a man. Not just Grandaddy Norris. He is a man who has lived a full life, worked hard for the little bit he got, produced four off spring, lost one tragically too soon, watched his baby daughter fight cancer, watched his grandkids have kids of their own, watched the world change and grown and move too rapidly. And now he's forced to stop. And I really felt that in my bones today... really let it sink in. All those old people, the ones I try to smile at and speak kindly to when I visit, are people who have lived these once vivid lives quickly fading away.
Dear Lord... I thank you so much for my grandparents, the three I still have with me. I ask of you today that you ease their weary and confused minds, that you bring back up for them memories of the joy they've had, and peace for each day. Numb their longing to go back to their earthly home, and replace it with the promise of their home to come with You. In Jesus' precious and powerful name... Amen.