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The Grandfather He Will Never Be

The other day I got excited to call and talk to my Dad. I then realized he wouldn't be able to talk, even if I called--because he’s gone. He’s been gone for eight years now. Every now and then I forget. I'm sad for my kids, because they're missing out on a lot of love from grandpa. I'm sad for myself because I would love to see them all wrestle together. I'm sad for my father because of the grandpa he'll never be to my kids.

My Dad was a police officer for 32 years. His bulging forearms were the size of my thighs. His biceps were not very defined, they were just blocks of muscle. My sister and I would often try to pull him down as he would kneel on the floor and just laugh at us until his face turned red. All our efforts were useless. He couldn't be moved. He had strong, compact hands that could crack walnuts on Thanksgiving like no other. Like most men, he didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve. I only recall seeing him cry a few times—at his mother’s funeral, at his son’s funeral, and in church on occasion when we would sing “I Need Thee Every Hour”.

I paint this picture of my dad, with only a few strokes, because I want you to understand one characteristic of him. He was tough as nail. He was tough because he had to be. He was a police officer and a father of eight children for heaven's sake. But the last time I saw him he looked weak. Leukemia had taken over. Hands once thick and strong were now thin and fragile. Arms once popping with powerful muscles now consisted of sagging skin and visible outlines of bone. This once intimidating officer of the law now could barely get out of his chair.

One memory I have of my father will forever be etched in the archives of my mind. He was sitting in his nice comfortable chair as leukemia was beginning to win the fight—eyes closed, arms resting on the arms of the chair, head back—and he was singing as his head rocked slowly from side to side. Not only did he sing, he felt something-- understood what the music meant--perhaps for the first time. He was singing and humming along with Erroll Gardner, his favorite Jazz pianist. As I watched my father in confused awe, I saw tears stroll down his face. He looked pathetically scared for a man who had faced fear his whole life on the police force. I think I realized then he was coming to terms with his imminent death.

I had never seen my Dad sit down and listen to music, there was always too much going on. He worked two jobs most of his adult life and had to support eight children and all that comes with that. I didn't know he had interest in music, other than the occasional blasting of Neil Diamond on cross country road trips. His life didn't allow him the luxury of listening to music. He never had the chance to sit down, relax, and sing along.

When life was fading away, he wanted to experience it. When his body was succumbing to illness, he wanted to feel. When his voice was about to become silent, he wanted to sing. There was something about that moment that was so innocent, so heartfelt. Seeing your powerful hero become something broken and weak is a very humbling thing.

With that in mind, while the day is here and you have your voice—turn up the music, sit back and smile, and for all those who didn't have the time to do it as much as they wanted to in life, please, oh please sing along!

4 comments:

  1. This was very touching Ben. I was just going to ask you about your Dad when I saw you next, but your dad must have been a great man and left a strong impression on you.

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  2. I've never heard you really talk about your dad. And the only times I ever met him he wasn't all muscle. Thank you for sharing these memories and helping me to understand how much you must have loved him.

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  3. that made me cry,i miss grandpa everyday..my dad is so much like him and when he passed it felt like i lost my father too. i love him so much and miss him,he was the best grandpa ever. i still sleep with the teddy bear he gave me when i was a baby

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    1. That was so sweet! I'm glad you got to have him as a grandpa, I know he was a great one!

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