| A Grandparent's Gift of Love |
By Edward Fays
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help
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Unique events become etched in our minds and in our heartsweddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, days when a loved one died, or a life-altering event occurred. Often we share the joy or pain of that day with family, our community, and sometimes even our country. These times compel us to pause and ponder what we gained or what we lost, and reflect on why that particular day marks such a profound turning point in our lives.
July thirteenth is one of those dates for me.
I was sitting in my brick-walled San Francisco office about eleven A.M. when my fiancée, Irina, phoned, letting me know she wasn't feeling well and would be working from home. At the time she was relocating to a three-bedroom apartment with a friend and had scheduled a lunchtime appointment with a man who called about their ad in the classifieds for the third bedroom. She was eager to rent out the space, and I wished her luck before hanging up the phone and getting back to work. There are few moments when a subtle suggestion could alter the course of our livesthe seconds ticking by after that phone call marked one of those times for me, and for her.
Around two P.M. Irina's friend Susan called, telling me to come over to her apartment immediately. "I'm busy right now," I said.
"Eddie, you need to get up here immediately," she commanded. "Irina was attacked by the man who came to see the apartment!"
Like bombs, her words detonated around me. I stood there, slack jawed, paralyzed, gloom creeping over me like a virus. My strength pouring out of me like water through a sieve.
"What?" I shouted, my pulse suddenly racing. "What happened?" The combination of shock and concern caused me to hammer my questions into the phone.
"The man she was showing the apartment to attacked her. Now get up here!"
Slamming down the phone, I groped for my keys under a mountain of papers and yellow sticky notes, casting much of them to the floor. I hurtled down the stairs six at a time and dashed out the front door of the building, sprinting up the hill. The appalling look of fright that must have been on my face attracted bizarre glances from tourists strolling through the streets adorned in their San Francisco sweatshirts.
My mind bristled with thoughts of what had happened. He attacked her! What does that mean? I leaped into my car and at breakneck speed swerved recklessly through narrow city streets choked with traffic, thoughts of what I would find when I got there pelting me like ice balls in a hailstorm. The red lights were tediously slow and I lay on my horn, flailing my left arm out the window to urge pedestrians to get out of my way. Finally, unleashed from the confines of the swarming city, I sped over the Golden Gate Bridge and for a split second grasped the irony of the situation. Tourists strode lazily along the bridge snapping photos of Alcatraz, the cobalt water of the bay, and the orange towers of the bridge rising boldly into the diamond sky. And I knew that just a few minutes from that scene of tranquillity, my fianc?e had endured a horrific experience. I pressed forward, keeping a heavy foot on the gas pedal, the scenery spinning by me in fast-forward.
Irina's new apartment was next door to her friend Susan's, and as I approached my heart galloped in my chest and my palms grew slick with sweat on the steering wheel. Moments after exiting the highway I veered impulsively into the parking lot, screeching to a halt before a barricade of three police cars, a news van, ambulance, and fire truck. That cluster of vehicles relayed the messagethe situation was worse than anything I had imagined.
I sprang out of my car and scrambled toward Susan's apartment. Two fully armed police officers standing shoulder-toshoulder blocked my path.
"Are you Eddie?" asked the stony-faced officer on the right. "Yes. Yes, I am. What happened?" I urged, my chest heaving deeply.
"Irina was attacked. She's doing okay. You can go see her now."Their shoulders separated as if opening the gate to let me pass. I burst through, bounding up the steps three at a time. I was greeted by two more police officers in the entryway.
"Is your name Eddie?" "Yes," I said, my mouth arid, pasty as I spoke. "I'm Sergeant Judd. Irina needs you to be strong now. She's been through a lot," she said in a professional yet thoughtful manner. She prodded the front door open, letting me step inside.
The scent of despair engulfed the room, lying across my shoulders like a slab of concrete. Immediately I saw Irina, the woman I love, squatting on the edge of the couch hugging herself around her waist. The coffee table cluttered with tissues, Irina's tears. Two plainclothes detectives towered above her; another police officer and Susan, her friend, were at her side. I had raced frantically to get there, but at that moment I edged forward cautiously, unsure of what to say and fearing what she would tell me. The left side of her face was crimson, stained with tears. All eyes turned toward me as I inched closer, and I was impaled by a staggering vision. Her right eye was swollen shut, her face severely battered, the vestiges of what happened after coming face-to-face with evil. I couldn't breathe. Feeling like I'd been struck in the stomach with a steel-toed boot, I sipped fast shallow whispers of air, my heart thundering furiously against my chest. Leaping forward, I wrapped my arms desperately around her and we buried our faces, crying together.
Within seconds we lost ourselves, drifting on the periphery, isolated from the rest of the world. She braced her soft finger under my chin, my tears pouring over her trembling hand as she raised my eyes so they gazed directly into hers. I peered searchingly into her eyes, the right one swollen shut and blistering, her skin raw from his violent hands. Her eyes begged to be rescued, for time to be reversed, for this to be just a bad dream.
I swabbed the tears from her left eye; they felt warm, vulnerable. I watched the teardrops trickle down my cheeks, but I could not feel them. My face, my body was numb, as if I were shielding myself from the pain.
"I've never seen you cry before," she said, her voice low and defeated, her lively spirit extinguished.
Speechless, all I could do was hold her, shuddering in disbelief. "What happened?" I asked, mopping the tears from my cheeks with my right shoulder. Her tears erupted again; she clenched her hands in mine, lacing our fingers together, and fought uttering each word, as if she couldn't fathom the truth of what she was saying.
"He tied me up and raped me. He made my worst fears come true."
Her words, anchored by the weight of an abysmal sadness, floated in the air like a cold, still breath. I wanted only to shun them like a trivial comment, as if what she'd said were untrue. But I couldn't do that so I grabbed her words, took them into my heart, and together we cried a raging stream of tears. My skin rippled with chill bumps, like a snake slithering in a burlap sack. The room swirled around me as if I were on a dizzying corkscrew roller-coaster ride that had no end. It was hazy, surreal, and all I could do was hold her and hold on. Guarding her visions and whisking her to a place where evil had been banished and where she felt safe and loved was all I desired. I prayed that she would find it right there, nestled in my arms.
Everyone dispersed, leaving us alone to comfort each other. We talked, cried, hugged, and cried again.
The gummy remnants of duct tape around her wrists, mouth, and neck remaineda vicious reminder of what she had just endured. Few situations in life eclipse all our concerns, forcing us to draw deep from our faith and harness our emotions into surviving that one moment. Together Irina and I were enveloped in a chasm where our minds and hearts were adrift until the subtle interruption of the police sergeant alerted us to the painful reality we had yet to face. It was time for Irina to go to the hospital.
Flanked by two police officers, she was escorted hastily out the front door, a white towel draped over her head concealing her identity from the TV camera. The assault occurred in Tiburon, California, a quaint little town of sweeping hills dotted with lush foliage, picture-frame views of the San Francisco skyline, and hemmed on all sides by the turquoise water of the billowing Pacific. News of this sinister attack spread quickly, jolting everyone living in that normally tranquil community.
The police needed a few words with me, so I stayed and watched transfixed as the ambulance lurched forward, finally vanishing beyond the brow of the hill. "The assailant stole her car and purse. Could you give us a description of the car?"The officer's question tugged on my thoughts like a leash around a dog's neck, yanking me back to reality.
"Yes. I know the car well," I offered, eager to help in any way I could.
During the next few minutes the officers peppered me with standard police procedure questions about the make of the car, the contents of Irina's purse, and other details before letting me rush to the hospital. Upon arriving at the emergency room, I was told that Irina was being treated and to wait. Reeling with nervousness and questions of What if, I paced the waiting room, a skittish bundle of nerves. What if I'd told her to wait until later when I could go with her to show the apartment? What if someone had heard her? What if. . .? What if. . .? I was talking aloud to myself and could feel people staring at me, wondering what had happened. Their eyes darted away when I glanced in their direction. The clock above the TV read fouroh- six P.M. and I thought of how much had changed in the past couple of hours.
Frenzied, and needing to talk, I called my parents. No cell phone, no change, I dialed collect-a sign that something was wrong. "Dad, oh, Dad."
"Eddie, what happened?" he asked, hearing the devastation in my voice.
"Irina was raped and beaten," I said, panting. "How could this happen? She's kind, gentle, little," I wailed, the tears pouring down my cheeks. Sergeant Judd emerged from behind the ER doors, and I quickly gave my father the name of the hospital, telling him I had to go.
"Irina's parents have been notified," she said, rubbing my left arm. My skin swam with goose bumps as I thought of what they must be feeling living three thousand miles awayhelpless was the only word that came to mind. I hugged Sergeant Judd, wrapping my arms around her steel-belted body. Her bulletproof vest felt shocking and rigid against my arms, reminding me of the dangers lurking in society.
Waiting, pacing, impulsively exiting and entering the hospital doors in a vain attempt to escape the vivid images of my imagination and the relentless questions plaguing my mind was how I spent the next three hours. Wrapping my thoughts around what had happened and how together we would make it through tomorrow, next week, and next month was hard, like swallowing a pocketful of spare change. I gagged just thinking about it. And then finally, sometime after seven o'clock that evening, I was allowed in to see her.
She is petitejust five-foot-oneand as I inched toward the room I saw her curled up on the examining table, lying partially under a thick cherry-red blanket. She looked pitiful, her dark brown puppy-dog eyes drooping, her snarled hair lying rumpled over her left cheek, and her toes crimped up in a razor-thin pair of blue plastic clinic slippers. Wearing a scant blue hospital gown, her hands were clenched together and tucked under her chin, and her eye was bandaged. All I wanted was to scoop her up and cuddle her in my arms.
I tiptoed into the room, and before uttering a word she asked in a soft, weary voice, "How are you doing?" Her question knotted my stomach muscles like a rope, forcing a pathetic whimper out of me. I couldn't believe she had asked how I was doing when she was the one suffering.
I wheeled a stool over to the bed and dropped down beside her, weaving my fingers into hers. Each moment that ticked by was abrasive, like fingernails scraping along a blackboard. I wondered how many excruciating moments we would endure before things returned to normal, angry with myself for entertaining those thoughts.
I asked about the tests, and she pinched her eyes shut, struggling not to think about their obtrusive nature and the personal questions she had to answer. The nurse popped in to say that Irina was doing great, but she offered those encouraging words more for Irina's benefit than for mine. It didn't matter. As I gazed at her bandaged eye and rubbery pink skin, all I could do was wonder how one person could administer that much pain upon another human being.
The room was eerily silent as feelings of sadness and anger battled for my attention. The stillness of our environment, pierced only by a few tears from one or both of us, was shattered when Sergeant Judd peeked from around the corner, carefully asking if Irina could offer a description of her attacker. She gently nodded. And during the next thirty minutes, as questions about the color of his eyes, the length of his nose, and the structure of his jaw were posed, the predator's face gradually began to form on the computer screen. In the completed sketch he appeared sinister, because I knew the harm he was capable of inflicting. Irina said he had arrived in a clean white car, wearing khakis, a polo shirt, baseball cap, and new sneakers. He joked, appeared friendlynothing to hint that behind his facade lurked a man with cruel intentions.
After a seven-hour hospital stay Irina returned to the scene of the crime, and with police cameras rolling she gave a painstaking account of what transpired. Feeling slightly embarrassed and wanting to spare me from the appalling details, she asked me to go home and wait for her arrival.
A few minutes past eleven a glistening white police cruiser crept into the driveway, crunching the gravel as the wheels rolled toward the front door. Irina arrived home traumatized, exhausted. Thinking all she wanted was a feathery pillow, her favorite blanket, and some sleep, I escorted her into the bedroom. "I'm starving," she said in a shallow voice, swerving back toward the kitchen.
Rifling through the refrigerator, I found a Tupperware container of fluffy mashed potatoes, the perfect comfort food. Two minutes later the shrill beep of the microwave blared through the kitchen, shattering the stillness surrounding us. "Would you like some butter?" I asked. She nodded, and I slid a knife across the top of the container, letting a curl of butter linger over the mashed potatoes before it plunged into the steaming pile below. It liquefied quickly, and I couldn't help but wonder if that's how Irina felt when she fell under her attacker's violent hands.
"Mashed potatoes are like a warm blanket," she said softly, nibbling tiny bites off the edge of her fork, the bruises to her jaw preventing her from opening her mouth fully. She took her time, eventually wiping the plate clean.
After a steaming shower and the sheltered warmth of her favorite pair of flannel pajamas clinging to her skin, Irina lay down searching for some semblance of peace, desperate to flee from the harsh reality of what occurred that day. But the vision that tormented her appeared on the dark screens of her eyelids each time she tried to sleep. As I lay there holding her, she shared with me the vision she could not escape. . . .
"I was showing him the bedroom," she said in a crackling voice, "when he reached under the cuff of his pants and pulled out a knife. I screamed at the top of my lungs, but no one could hear me."
There was a sadness in her voice that paralyzed me. Lying there cuddled up under my arms, her legs and feet tucked snugly inside mine, overwrought with the horror she'd experienced that day, she wept. Drawing in hiccupy gulps of air, she cried out, "I can't see anything but him, and I can't feel anything but scared!"
His mocking words echoed in her mind. She was hearing again and again the same chilling voice she heard that afternoon. An evil man telling her what he was about to do to her. Delicately saying she was safe now in my hands had a hollow effect, the shield of fear engulfing her causing my words to echo as if I were yelling down a dark vacant corridor. My mind fumbled for the right thing to say, but it wasn't until I relented, allowing my heart to take control, that the soothing influence I so desperately wanted bubbled to the surface.
To this day I don't know how or why, but I began telling Irina stories about my grandparents, and soon found that the love grandparents are known for began working its magic on her heart and her imagination.
"When we're scared, the best thing we can do is imagine a place where we feel loveda place of warmth, tenderness, and strength. Boating with my grandfather is one of those memories for me," I whispered. "The two of us floating aimlessly on the lake in an old rowboat pelted with dents. We'd sit out there for hours basking in the warm glow of the sun while our butts grew numb from squatting on those metal seats waiting for the fish to tug on our lines. He'd talk about life, the lessons he learned, his experiences, and what leads to happiness."
I wrapped my arms broadly around her, and she murmured, "I needed a hug like this one."
"My grandma taught me the art of hugging," I said with a sad smile. "She told me the secret ingredients are squeezing and tendernessmaking sure your hugs have just the right amount of each.
"When we're scared, one of the best things we can do is laugh, because there's no room for fear in a smiling heart," I said. "Did I ever tell you about the time when I was a boy and screamed because I came face-to-face with my grandfather's false teeth? He accidentally left them in a glass of water on the kitchen table."
Irina chuckled, her body quaking slightly under my arms, and the sharp claws of fear began to relinquish their grip on her imagination. My simple tales kindled the memories of her own grandparents, and as she began talking about them, the tender, affectionate visions of her grandma and grandpa replaced the vicious images of her attacker. Thinking of her own grandparents, the sacrifices they had made and the obstacles they overcame, reminded her of simpler times, all the things she had yet to experience, and that anything is possible. Those thoughts began to fortify her spirit, giving her strength and hope when she needed them most. She reflected that her life might have ended that day. But she had survived, and lying there that night, as her panicked breathing subsided, she took the first steps toward acquiring an appreciation for life that comes only from facing your own mortality.
The essence and love of our grandparents enveloped us that night, enabling Irina to fall asleep peacefully despite the ghastly encounter she had faced that day. As she drifted off, I lay mystified at the soothing effect the memory and wisdom of our grandparents had on her during such a traumatic time. What did other grandparents have to share that could enlighten and inspire people of all ages and under any of life's circumstances? What stories could people share who were dramatically influenced by a grandparent or significant elder? I wondered.
Convinced that people from all walks of life would embrace a book of stories brimming with love, wisdom, sacrifices, and guidance from society's most experienced members, I began my search for the stories that fill the book you now hold in your hands.
The two-year anniversary of that day has passed. Irina has proven herself a poster child for possessing courage and gallantly conquering extreme adversity. On the first anniversary of her attack, instead of sitting around thinking of what had happened the year before, she decided to face fear on her own terms. She went skydiving. A symbol stating, I am not beaten and refuse to live my life in a protective shell, fearful of the things I may face in this world.
On the second anniversary, I accompanied her atop the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, one thousand feet above the vast Pacific. Together we soaked up the spellbinding view, thankful that she was still alive, that we had each other, and that we were fortunate enough to live in such a magnificent environment. Standing there, a jerky breeze swirling around me, I gazed down at the tourists strolling carelessly along the bridge snapping pictures of Alcatraz and gazing at the bright orange towers rising boldly into the turquoise sky. I recalled the day two years earlier, overcome with gratitude that although Irina says a part of her died that day, she is still the same woman I grew to love. And as I watched her gasping in awe at the splendor of the bay and the panoramic view, I smiled, thrilled that her childlike spirit and zest for living still shone brightly.
Irina's attacker was captured five days after the crime was committed. The detailed sketch Irina gave of him appeared in newspapers throughout California and was the critical factor in bringing him to justice. He pleaded guilty eighteen months later and was sentenced to 251 years in prison. It was his third strike in a string of violent crimes and warranted the life sentence. On the day of sentencing, with her attacker outfitted in maroon prison fatigues, his arms and legs in shackles, Irina boldly stood before a packed courtroom and gave an emotionally charged speech, saying. . .
"I have turned many stonestrying to explain it, trying to make sense. But what happened to me is a senseless act. A part of me still feels scaredwhen riding alone in an elevator with a strange man my imagination sometimes gets the best of me. Every day I live with the memory of what happened, but I will not let it beat me. I will think of him every day for the rest of my life. My bad days don't seem as bad any longer, and on my best days I sometimes cry, remembering what he did to me and feeling thankful that I survived. I understand just how precious life is and that each moment is a gift I must use to the fullest."
Time; and the love she receives from her family, friends, and myself; and the stories of courage, sacrifice, and hope within this book have helped her to heal. There will never be closure, but she understands that if you are willing to make it happen, something good can arise from the ashes of life's traumatic events.
Today Irina and I are happily married. On the day of our wedding, as we stood before family and friends, I gazed into her eyes and thought of all we had been through together. She was right, I said to myself; standing there about to exchange vows, I thought of the day she was attacked, but my spirits were not dampened. Instead, I felt more grateful then ever, knowing that we had each other and since we had made it through that traumatic ordeal there was nothing we couldn't handle as long as we had each other.
Perhaps the best we can do is try to benefit from all our life
experiences and learn from the insights of those who came before
us to help enrich our community, our nation, and possibly
even our world. And to always live by the philosophy, It's not
what happens to you, it's what you do with it that makes all the difference.
Why do so many of us fear the aging process? As life moves forward, some doors close forever while new doors open, ready to provide us with fresh adventures that will hopefully enrich our lives even further. Welcoming each year with verve, by anticipating who we'll meet and all that we'll learn, is the finest way to live. Our life is a book that we write as we go along, and like any book, we must strive to make it interesting and, of course, make it complete.
Are You So Wrinkled?
A little elementary school was set on a small parcel of land, complete with jungle gym and basketball hoop. From the school playground you could see the front porch of a nearby senior center. The kids were always too busy playing to pay any attention to the center, but many of the seniors delighted in watching the kids frolic in the schoolyard.
One day Ms. Valentine, the first-grade teacher, noticed the seniors watching the children and thought it would be a good idea to bring them together. So early one morning the following week, the children were escorted hand-in-hand out the door of their classroom, through the playground, beyond the school fence, and over to the senior center.
The students were allowed to mingle if they liked, and some were introduced to residents of the center. Remmy Evans, an enterprising little boy, was strolling around as if he were sizing everyone up when he spotted an older gentleman outfitted in a checkered flannel shirt and sky-blue baseball cap sitting off in the corner. Their eyes met, and the man waved Remmy over. "Hello, I'm Mr. Royce," said the man, extending his hand as if they were about to engage in a business meeting.
Remmy observed Mr. Royce's hand curiously and said, "Excuse me, mister, but why are you so wrinkled?" Mr. Royce laughed heartily and said, "Now, that is a very good question. Would you really like to know?" "Sure," replied Remmy. "What's your name?" asked Mr. Royce.
Remmy hopped up on a chair and said, "My name is Remmy Theodore Evans. But most people just call me Remmy." "Well, Remmy, let me tell you the story about wrinkles. Most people think wrinkles are a sign of age, but they're really a sign of use. When you're wrinkled, like me, it means you have lived a full life. It means you have more memories than most people do. I'll show you what I mean. How many times has Santa Claus visited your house?"
Remmy scratched his head, and his eyes rolled back before he finally responded. "Well, I'm six, but I can only remember the last couple of years, and Santa Claus came those times." "So you know for sure that Santa Claus visited your house at least twice?" asked Mr. Royce.
"Yeah, that's right," replied Remmy. "Listen to this," announced Mr. Royce. "Santa Claus has visited me eighty-nine times!" Remmy's eyes opened wide, and with his mouth gaping he declared, "Wow! You must have a lot of great toys!" "I did," said Mr. Royce, laughing. "Many of them are old now, like me."
"But when toys get old they don't get wrinkled," remarked Remmy.
Mr. Royce chuckled and said, "That's right. Instead they get chipped paint and broken pieces. It's kind of the same thing. The same way toys get used, people's bodies get used. Toys get old because we use them. My body is old and wrinkled because I used it. Do you have an old toy that doesn't work well anymore?"
"Yeah, a couple of them," replied Remmy. "Well, that's the way my body is now. Do you remember having fun playing with those toys?" "Yeah! My best friend, Ronnie, would come over, and we would play with them a lot," Remmy said excitedly.
"So you have happy memories playing with your old toys, even though they don't work too well anymore?" "I sure do, but I like my new ones, too." "What if you never played with your old toys?" asked Mr. Royce. "They might still be like new, but you wouldn't have fun memories of playing with them, right?"
"I guess you're right." "Which would you rather have, the good times playing with your friend or your old toys looking like new?" Without hesitation Remmy exclaimed, "The fun with my friend! We laughed a lot."
"That's the same way I feel about my body," explained Mr. Royce. "I had fun in my life and did a lot of exciting things. If I wanted to protect my body and try to keep it looking like new, I would have missed out on some great times. The same thing goes for you and your toys. If you leave all your toys in the box and never play with them, they'll never get old and break, but you'll never have any fun with them either. Have you ever skinned your knee?"
"Yeah, look!" Remmy rolled his pants leg up over his right knee, proudly displaying a wound from the playground. "That's okay," said Mr. Royce. "You're using your body and having fun. I had a lot of bumps and bruises in my life. I usually got them while I was doing something I liked. It was worth getting a bump on the knee. The same way using a toy until it breaks is okay, because you enjoyed playing with it."With a concerned look on his face, Mr. Royce asked, "Am I making sense?"
"I get it," obliged Remmy. "I was having fun when I skinned my knee."
Mr. Royce smiled and continued. "When a baby is born, she's soft and smooth because she's new. But she also hasn't had any fun yet. She doesn't have any memories of playing with her friends either. But as she grows, she'll have fun, make memories with her friends, and, sure enough, skin her knee. When she gets old, like me, she'll have wrinkles, too.
"So now do you know why I have all these wrinkles?" "Yeah!" said Remmy. "You're all used up!" Laughing boisterously, Mr. Royce confessed, "Yes, that's a big part of it. I've also got wrinkles because I've lived a long time and had a lot of fun. I like to think of each wrinkle as a great memory."
"You must be really happy," declared Remmy. With a nostalgic look on his face, Mr. Royce responded, "I certainly am, son. I certainly am."
As Ms. Valentine called for the students to say their goodbyes,
Mr. Royce reached out his wrinkled hand to say farewell,
but Remmy didn't shake it. Instead he gave Mr. Royce an affectionate
hug and ran off to join his classmates. A flurry of
distant memories flashed through Mr. Royce's mind, and his
eyes prickled with tears. He was delighted with the new memory
he and Remmy had just created. He hoped it would be one
Remmy would think of someday, many years from then, when
he had wrinkles, too.
Inspired by ANITA HART
She stood there shivering, raking her fingers over her head, strands of hair falling onto the sink; some snared under her nails. Her nerves were frayed, a violin string stressed to the breaking point. The wind and rain fueled the intensity of the moment, beating against the glass like an intruder trying to force his way inside.
I stood off in the corner, silently, out of sight. My eyes beaded with tears as I gazed at her, trying to comprehend what she was thinking. But how could I understand, even though I desperately wanted to? How could I possibly know what it felt like to be moments away from beginning a second round of chemotherapy treatments?
Standing there, I recalled the day more than a year earlier when she had first gotten the diagnosis. It was summer, one of those mornings when you step outside and are smacked by the sumptuous bouquet of flowers in bloom. We had planned on playing tennis that morning, but the phone rang, changing our lives forever. I walked inside, my cheery smile and sprightly colored yellow-and-white tennis outfit in stark contrast to the moment. She was sitting at the table, her face whitewashed, her hands fidgety. "I have cancer," she said crisply, so I would hear it the first time, so she wouldn't have to repeat those stinging words. The fresh-scented summer morning suddenly turned to gloom. "They want me to come in next week to discuss treatment options," she continued. "I just went in for my annual checkup the other day, and now they want to talk with me about treating cancer. My God!"
We made it through that morning, sharing our fears, which somehow made us both feel a little less frightened. We rode a tidal wave of emotions, crying together one minute and then convincing ourselves that she could beat the disease. The two of us shared our grief alone before sharing the news with family and friends.
She endured the chemotherapy treatments with bravery, losing more than fifteen pounds and most of her hair in the process. I had never bought her a hat before, but I purchased three in the next year. Once, as I placed a hat on the counter and handed my credit card to the saleslady, I broke down crying.
Then some good news came. Finally. The treatments worked. They got the enemy, I thought to myself. Thank you, God. It took some adjusting, but life got back to normal, that chapter of our lives behind us. Her hair grew back, she gained some weight, and we resumed our weekly tennis match. The hats she'd worn were happily stored in a box and stuffed in the closet of the spare bedroom. But now, in the time it takes to answer a phone call, a frightening new chapter has begun.
Standing there in the corner I asked myself, What can I say to her? I have asked that excruciating question a thousand times, and I asked it again. But at that moment, as she delicately caressed her cheeks and glared deep within herself, I realized that no word has been coined that can encompass a person's feelings. So hugs were invented instead. One loving embrace speaks volumes, so that's what I did.
I walked over silently, closed my eyes, and hugged her. I
hugged my twenty-five-year-old granddaughter with all the
love I had in my heart and soul, and then I accompanied her to
Inspired by ROSALIE PACKARD
Jake was in the second grade when his parents told him his gradpa would be retiring after working at the same company for forty years. With a look of amazement on his face, Jake said, "I'm only seven, so that means Grandpa has been there . . ." He thought for a second and finally exclaimed, "A really long time!"
His parents chuckled and said, "Yes, Grandpa has worked there a long time, and that's why we are throwing him a surprise party."
Jake loved his grandpa very much and wanted to do something special for the occasion. He offered to help with the party plans but was told that all the arrangements had been made. Undaunted, Jake knew there must be some way he could show his grandpa how much he was appreciated and congratulate him on his retirement.
Jake remembered the business card his grandpa had given him a couple of years earlier. It was wedged within the mirror's wooden frame in his bedroom, between a two-dollar bill and a picture of him and his dad on the Ferris wheel at the church carnival. He scrambled up the stairs and into his room. Taking the tattered card in his hand, he realized that his grandpa would no longer have that position. Positions are good, he thought, so he decided to create a new one for his grandpa. Jake told his parents about the idea, and they said it was wonderful.
When the big day came, Jake was ready. A collection of different-size boxes, all beautifully wrapped, were placed on a gift tablethat is, all except for Jake's. He didn't want to include his gift with the others, so he carried it around with him the entire evening.
He watched his grandpa open the other gifts, "oohing" and "aahing" at each one. He wanted his gift to be the last one Grandpa opened, so as the evening drew to a close, he took his grandpa's hand and ushered him over to a chair in the corner, away from the crowd.
"I've got something for you, Grandpa," Jake stated with pride, offering up the gift.
With that, his grandpa propped Jake up on his left knee and declared, "Well, this sure is a beautifully wrapped present. Did you do this all by yourself?"
"Kind of," Jake replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Mom helped me a little." Grandpa smiled. "Well, it looks wonderful. May I open it now?"
Jake enthusiastically nodded his head.
As Grandpa unwrapped the package, his cheeks grew moist with tears. Jake had given him the greatest gift he could have ever asked for: official business cards with his new title: FULL-TIME GRANDPA. There were no phone or fax numbers because now his time was his own. There was no business address because his new position didn't require one. Jake gazed lovingly into his grandpa's eyes and said, "Congratulations on your retirement. Now your full-time job is just being my grandpa!"
Holding one of the cards between his right thumb and index finger and wiping his tears with the back of his hand, Grandpa asked jokingly, "Well, how much do I get paid?"
With his bright blue eyes expressing total devotion, Jake responded, "As many hugs as you want each day."
Beaming with joy, Grandpa gave Jake an affectionate hug
and buoyantly replied, "Well, I guess that means I'm a rich
Inspired by BEN STEWART
Excerpted from A Grandparent's Gift of Love , by Edward Fays . Copyright (c) 2002 by Edward Fays . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top