I had a lovely chat with my grandfather last night.
It made me realize I should call my grandparents more often. I have so much to learn from them.
First of all, my grandfather is almost 85, and he is more physically fit than most people I know. When I called, he was at Panera Bread taking a break from a morning bike ride. He has a century ride coming up soon (a 100-miler). Every morning, he wakes up, does his daily meditations, and then works out.
I told him last night that he inspires me. He, of course, was very modest about it all, pointing out that he needs to stay physically healthy in order to take good care of my grandmother.
Which leads me to the another thing: My grandfather is a very loving man.
As long as I can remember, I have always seen him being friendly and generous with those around him and being quite considerate in the way he talks about people. But he is particularly devoted to his wife.
My grandmother’s health has been declining for many years now, and to see his faithfulness in taking care of her, his devotion, his patience, his perseverance… witnessing that kind of thing can change a person.
I believe in miracles.
I’ve seen amazing, instantaneous healings that have astounded me.
But sometimes there isn’t a quick fix. And when a person chooses to persevere, to press on, to love, to be devoted, something is displayed that is less exciting, perhaps, than the instantaneous fix, but no less powerful or amazing.
When my grandfather said he would pray for my marriage, I was very touched. Not just because marriage is a deep desire of my heart and having him recognize that and care about that made me feel loved, but also because of the way he talked about marriage itself.
Some older people get cynical about marriage. I’ve seen it happen. But not my grandfather.
Despite all that he has been through, he remains a firm believer in marriage, in the joy of having the right life partner.
“I really will pray about that. I think it would be very nice for you,” he said last night. “As long as it’s the right person,” he quickly added. “Never get married to someone just because you want to get married.”
His own wife completely changed his life, helped him become the best version of himself. She was a pillar of wisdom and a source of joy for him. And after all this time, all these years, and all this suffering, his gratefulness for her and for what they shared together has never stopped.
When I was younger, I remember my grandfather telling us that some young person had stared at him and my grandmother holding hands at the pool. They had apparently thought it disturbing for an older couple to be so physically affectionate. I noticed after that, his attentiveness to her. Even after decades of living together he didn’t let familiarity stop him from being tender.
It’s the same tenderness with which he still treats her. Even when she isn’t able to respond.
I realize now, even more than I did back then, that that kind of devotion and tenderness isn’t a given. But it’s something I have seen is possible. It’s something that inspires me. And it is something I aspire to.