Thursday, December 6, 2018

Living and Loss

  It has been a long time since I wrote (as I seem to begin most posts), but let's pick up as though we are old friends in the midst of conversation.

   My grandfather passed away the other day. Night? Day? I'm not exactly sure. I received the message from my brother in the middle of what was the night for me, but for them, I believe it was late afternoon.
   My grandfather, Charles L. Wiggins, Sr., was wonderful, witty, creative, and talented. He loved Jesus, my Grandma Jane, and the five of us grandkids just a little bit more than he loved black coffee with two pink packets of sweet-and-low, and that's saying something. He loved my mom and her brother, too, but really, they became chopped liver once I entered the scene.
   When I was a baby, I would spend the night at my grandparents' house, and I would wake them in the mornings with my whistling. I learned to whistle at a very young age because my PawPaw whistled whenever he walked, wherever he walked. And I liked him a lot, so whistling was naturally how I would get his attention.
   Pawpaw would be the one who would wrap us up like burritos in our bath towels and then toss us on the bed to unroll in a spinning heap of laughter. When we had school assignments requiring artistic ability, PawPaw would become a comic strip writer and complete our homework beautifully, our teachers somehow none the wiser. PawPaw taught us how to set trotlines and tie proper knots on our fishing hooks, although I think Grandma would like to claim credit for gifting us the luck of drawing fish to our lines.
   My grandfather retired before my grandma did, so when my mom went back to work, PawPaw was the one who would pick us up when the school nurse called to say we were sick. Depending on what ailed you, he would prepare the most delicious mashed baked potato, chocolate milkshake or chicken noodle soup. He would talk about his days as an army cook and the number of potatoes he had peeled for one meal, and I always thought how kind he was to even look at another potato, but especially one made just for me. After you were fed, you were promptly set up in the guest bedroom with your very own television, and for me, he made sure to have it tuned to the Great Chefs program on PBS.
   Every Christmas Eve, PawPaw insisted we read the Christmas story from Luke chapter two before we were allowed to go near our presents. His prayers at dinners and family gatherings always felt like they were from down deep, from a place I wanted to know--soulful, knowing prayers, like he talked to Jesus regularly, because, well, he did.
   When I went to stay with my parents in the depths of my post-partum depression with Emma Jane, my PawPaw came to babysit me. I think he looked at me and said a few off-color words, and then he just held my baby and made me laugh for the day.

  One can fall into a false thinking that while you are away from your homeland, all will remain the same without you. You see glimpses of change on your yearly visits, perhaps a few more gray hairs or a slower gait, but you somehow push those things aside and pretend everyone will live in a time vacuum for the remainder of your assignment away. So when mortality arrives, and you lose someone who you love (more than coffee), it is hard, and it takes a bit longer to process.
   I wasn't there to regularly see my grandfather getting older, weaker, and more tired, and even if my parents had tried to tell me it was happening, I probably would not have listened. So when I was crying and asking God why he couldn't have waited just a little longer (we go home in the summer), I heard in my heart, "He didn't want to do therapy." If you knew my grandfather (and knowing different forms of rehabilitative therapy are part of life as you age), you would know why that whisper in my heart made me laugh even through my tears.

   I believe that my PawPaw is now in Heaven with Jesus, that he is standing tall and worshiping with his beautiful voice. I know I will see him again one day, but until then, I treasure each and every moment of living that we had together.