If you are a parent or grandparent, you can probably relate to this tale about a grandpa’s love and loneliness experiences with his grandchildren. Many of you may have experienced similar situations. If not, you likely will at some time in life.
I decided to stop by a local diner for a quick lunch the other day. That in itself is not important, but what happened while I was there certainly is.
The diner was crowded, but I spotted a small-empty table located against the rear wall. It was a table for two. As I sat waiting to place my order, I noticed a man looking around the room and sensed he was searching for a place to sit. Since I was dining alone, I motioned for him to come join me.
As he approached the table, I couldn’t help noticing how similar we were in appearance—size, hair, beard—even our shirts were the same. I felt as though I was looking at my reflection in a mirror.
He introduced himself as John. I’m guessing we were about the same age. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly started solving all the problems plaguing the world today—old folks are inclined to do that sometimes.
About halfway through lunch, I noticed a tear running down John’s cheek. I asked if I said something that had upset him. He told me no and proceeded to explain the reason for his tear.
“Tom, when I was a young man, God blessed me with two beautiful children. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a good father to either of them. I regret not spending more quality time with them when they were young. Thank goodness, their wonderful mother managed to fill the void of my deficiencies.
“When we became empty nesters, I promised myself I would do things differently with my grandchildren. I didn’t want to create any more regrets in my life.
I was fifty-years old when my first grandchild was born. It was definitely one of the happiest days of my life. My son named the boy Joseph in honor of his mother’s father. Little Joseph lived nearby, so I was able to visit him often, even if only for a few minutes each day. I was determined to make good on my promise; I’m proud to say I did.
“As a baby and toddler, Joseph had a way of making me feel special. When I walked into the room where he was playing, his big blue eyes opened wide and a big smile spread from ear-to-ear. He would immediately raise his arms for me to pick him up. The joy he displayed by my presence melted my heart. I often close my eyes to this day and picture those wonderful moments. A special bond formed between us, and I enjoyed every minute we spent together.
“It wasn’t long before grandchildren Lisa, Elijah, Rebecca, and Daniel came into my life. To say I was in heaven with this clan of five would be an understatement. The only problem was Lisa and Rebecca lived in a distant town, so I wasn’t able to visit them as often as I did my grandsons.
“I enjoyed all five grands and felt blessed to have them in my life. We spent many great moments together when they were young. Like most Grandpas do, I played with them, but I also tried to teach them about life—I wanted them to grow up to be the best they could be no matter what they chose to do in life.
“When Joseph turned fourteen, the strong bond we once shared began to fade away. His interests transitioned to school, sports, friends, and a multitude of electronic gadgets. I guess it was a natural progression of grands getting older and spreading their wings. He no longer desired to spend time with me, which was something I never expected. I naively thought our special bond would last forever. I guess I missed the ‘No Time for Grandpa’ course when I was in school.
“Unfortunately, Joseph wasn’t the only grandchild who no longer had time to spend with Grandpa. As each year passed, another grandchild seemed to pull away from me. My heart broke a little more each time. I think I know how the buggy-whip manufacturer felt when the automobile replaced the horse and buggy—no one needs you anymore.
“I felt a giant void in my life and didn’t know what happened. Each day became a struggle because I wished to share special moments with each of them again. Thankfully, the emptiness I’ve felt for years changed a little bit today.
“That tear running down my cheek is not a tear of sadness. No, no! It’s a tear of joy! A happy tear as they say! You see, I was just thinking about a text message Joseph sent me early this morning. It was an answer to my many prayers and turned another ordinary day into a very special one.
“Here’s the message Joseph sent me.
‘Hi Grandpa! I’ve missed you so much! I’d like to spend some time with you today. May I come visit you tonight? I have many things to tell you. I’ll see you at 6, if that’s okay. Love ya! Joseph’
“I think you can understand how happy I am at this moment. I can’t wait for 6 o’clock to get here! I am a very happy Grandpa today!”
John and I finished lunch and I wished him well. I told him to have a wonderful evening with Joseph. He smiled and insisted on paying for our meals. I declined his generous offer and told him I’d take care of the bill. We shook hands and he started walking away.
John took three steps from the table, turned around, and then with a big smile said, “Hang in there, Tom. I am confident your grands will do the same for you one day. Trust me, they know how much you love them. They just haven’t figured out how much they still love and need you in their lives. Grandchildren may drift away sometimes, but they will return when they sort life out. Be patient. Don’t let go of what you hope will be.”
I sat for a few moments wondering what made me invite John to join me for lunch. Did he share his story with me because he somehow knew my struggles were similar to his?
When the server brought me the check, I noticed it was for only one meal. I asked her to include John’s meal and was shocked when she said she had only served one meal to my table.
Then I started wondering if John was ever even there. Maybe I was just talking to my subconscious mind the entire time. Could he have been an angel God sent to ease my loneliness? Maybe…
It was then a tear rolled down my cheek. However, my tear was not one of joy or sadness, but one of hope—hoping John’s ghostly appearance was right—hoping I’d soon receive a similar text message from my grands.
To capture this unusual moment, I wrote the following thoughts on a napkin.
NO TIME FOR GRANDPA
When my grands arrived, they brought me joy.
I smiled each day, for I was their toy.
But those days are just a memory,
As I now sit idle on their shelf.
With computer gadgets they now play,
And have no time for Grandpa, they say.
So, I just stop by from time to time,
Hoping they notice me standing there.
Each day comes and goes without a chat.
I never dreamed it would be like that.
Many memories I still hold dear,
And my love will never fade away.
I pray you never feel as I do,
But should such sadness come visit you,
Remember John’s parting words to me.
“Don’t let go of what you hope will be.”
Enjoy every moment you spend with your grandchildren because there may come aTimeinLife when they have No Time For Grandpa.
Tom Tatum – Author – 2016
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