Tag Archives: #tearsofjoy

NO TIME FOR GRANDPA

notimeforgrandpa2

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.

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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.

grandpastear

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“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’

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“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!”

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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.

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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.

Blessings,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

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FATHER’S LETTER “TO MY SON”

LetterToMySonRiver

John Johnson recently moved to Orangeburg, South Carolina and purchased thirty-acres of land bordering the majestic-cold-black water of the slow-flowing Edisto River. Abandoned many years ago, nature had reclaimed the property with underbrush so thick it made walking about very difficult. With a machete in hand, John started exploring the land to see exactly what he had blindly purchased. What he found changed his life. This is his story…

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As I started walking away from the riverbank, I noticed an old shack on a hill about one-hundred yards directly in front of me. I was shocked when I saw it because I didn’t even know the shack existed. The structure was in such a state of ill-repair I figured I would likely have to demolish and replace it with a new cabin.

LetterToMySonShack

As I stood on the front porch, I tried to imagine who might have lived there long ago. Who were they? Where did they go? Why did they abandon this beautiful property?

Not knowing what critters might be lurking inside the old shack, I banged on the door as if expecting someone to answer. No person or critter responded, so I eased the door open. The eerie, screeching sound made by the rusted hinges was an indication the door had not opened in years.

To my surprise, the interior actually appeared to be in good shape—the natural color of the unpainted wood created a warm-inviting atmosphere. There were even several pieces of furniture neatly placed, as if someone had left just minutes before my arrival. The only telltale sign of abandonment was the thick layer of dust coating everything in sight.

The first object that caught my eye was an old-mahogany chest standing against the wall to my left. It seemed so out of place because its beauty rivaled any antique I had ever seen. I opened the top drawer and found a small metal box containing a sealed envelope with the words “To My Son” written on it.

Suddenly, I felt guilty, as if I was invading someone’s privacy, but I proceeded to open the envelope anyway. A letter and a small black-and-white photo of an old man sporting grey hair appeared. The deep lines etched in his face were telltale signs of stress and years of exposure to the sun. The scars on his cheeks and forehead were indicative of serious accidents or having lived a difficult life. Yet, his eyes beamed with the warmth of a kind, gentle soul. His face looked so familiar, as if I should know him. Could it be possible I had seen this face before?

When I gently rubbed my finger across the image, I could sense the pain the old man must have endured—the experience was surreal, as though this man and I had some sort of connection. I brushed the thought aside and quickly refocused my attention to the letter and began reading…

To My Son,                              July 12, 1998

If you are reading this, it’s because I am no longer here to talk to you in person; I’ve gone to my final resting place in my Father’s house of many rooms and no longer feel the pain of my youth. However, there are a few things I never had the opportunity to tell you. Allow me to do so now.

Please read these words carefully as they will help you be a loving father to your son. I say these things not seeking your pity, but to open your heart and mind to God’s love.

When I was a young boy, my father didn’t treat me very well; he never even told me he loved me. In fact, he beat me many times, even though I begged him to stop. He said he wanted to toughen me up and teach me to be a man. He yelled and cursed me to stop crying like a big baby. Each time he hit me, I tried to protect my face with my hands only to have the hard blows of his massive fists break my fingers and send blood pouring from the wounds he inflicted upon my head. I prayed each day for God to take my pain away, and promised Him I would never treat my son the way my father treated me.

I never had much in my life, but I gladly give you this beautiful piece of heaven where you are now standing. The shack is small, but it’s very cozy, and the view of the river from the front porch will astound you—look at it often and you will find peace. I pray God speaks to you just as He did me. All I ask of you is that you keep this little shack standing tall and full of love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of you, but if I’m wrong, I will understand.

Don’t be alarmed as you continue reading this message I share from my heart, but I know you’re probably not my son. That’s okay—I love you as though you are! You see, I was serving my country in Vietnam when I heard you were born. It was the best day of my life! I couldn’t wait to hold you in my arms and give you all the love you deserve—the same love I prayed for many times.

Unfortunately, I was involved in a bloody battle with the enemy the day following your arrival. I became a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for six-long years.

Enemy soldiers beat me many times during my stay there. Memories of my dad teaching me to be a man filled my mind each time they hit me. I think I finally became the man dad wanted me to be because the only information I ever gave the enemy was my name, rank, and service number. They did not break me because the thought of seeing you one day kept me going—you were all I had to sustain me. I thank you for easing my pain.

When I returned home, I learned the army had listed me as MIA (Missing-In-Action). Your mother had remarried and wanted nothing to do with me, so I never had a chance to spend time with you. God didn’t bless me that way. I’m not sure why, but I never questioned His will for He blessed me in so many other ways. At least I was able to catch a brief glimpse of you playing in the yard on the day your mother broke my heart and sent me away.

Maybe God sent you here this day that you might become my son, and I—well, your father. I know how strange that must sound, but the thought comforts me, and paints a smile upon my face as I write these words. It would please me greatly if you choose to call me Dad. I will never harm you in any way if you do. I will honor my promise to God and give you the love I never received from my father.

My simple wish for you is that you find peace and happiness here in this little shack by the river. I pray you will love your son and teach him to know God. You do not have to hit him to teach him how to become a man. Do unto him as your Lord in heaven does to you—love him with all your heart; he will understand what it takes to make a real man strong.

Now, go hug your son. Tell him how proud you are to be his father, and never let your fists strike him in anger or any other way for that matter. God chose to bless you with a son, so love him as I do you on this very special day.

With all my love to the son I never met,

Matthew Johnson

As I read the man’s name, my heart swelled with emotion. Could this man possibly be my real father—the father I never met? The flow of the cold-black waters of the river paled in comparison to the stream of warm tears flowing down my cheeks. I felt as though God had led me to this place, in His own time, to meet this old man. I was humbled—no, I felt blessed by the experience and couldn’t wait to get home to hug my son. I was going to shower him with the same love an old man’s words in a letter had bestowed upon me.

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Well, it’s been two years since I discovered that old-abandoned shack on my riverfront property. My thoughts of tearing the place down never materialized. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I restored it. My wife, son, and I now call this our home. We named our little piece of heaven by the river “Matthew’s Place” in honor of Matthew Johnson.

On the wall above that old-antique-mahogany chest is a frame displaying the photo of Matthew Johnson and his “TO MY SON” letter. It serves to remind me of the day I received a special message from an angel. Although the Lord’s house has many rooms, I will dwell in Matthew’s Place until the Lord calls me home to meet Mr. Johnson.

LetterToMySonFramed2

Matthew Johnson, may you rest in peace knowing that I, John Matthew Johnson, now think of you as my dad. Though we never met, your kind letter touched my heart. You, Matthew, now have someone to call—SON! May God bless and keep you until the day we meet in paradise!

John 14:2 (NIV)

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

Give your children a hug and tell them how much you love them—do this each day of your life.

The names herein are fictional and do not represent any real characters.

Tom Tatum – Author 2016

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