The (Grand)Father Treasure

When I was a little girl, I knew the stories about my paternal grandfather having beaten the odds. His first heart attack was before I was born, and his cardiologist (the one my grandfather outlived!) told him that he wouldn’t see his 55th birthday. My sisters and I would always talk about our dreams that he would live long enough to see us graduate from high school or get married, although we never really believed he would. And because we lived in Germany during my last two years of high school, I remember often being worried that he would die while we were overseas, at a time when I hadn’t seen him for a year or more. 

I’ll fast forward quite a bit for you. I’m writing these words after spending the day helping to take care of my grandfather, “Pawpop” to me, after he contracted the flu. He is 94 years old. Not only did he live to see me get married, but he also has sweet relationships with my six children, who are just a few of his 40-some-odd great-grandchildren (one of whom is already married). He and my grandma have been married for 71 years. 

Grandparents are a treasure, at least when they are loving their families well. Sometimes grandparents end up being stand-in parents in situations where the actual parents aren’t present — or aren’t around enough. In my case, I had wonderful parents and didn’t need anyone to step in to make up for deficiencies or neglect. And yet, I was blessed with more. 

My young years were spent expectantly waiting for our yearly trips to Fort Worth, from wherever the Air Force had us at the time, so I could see my grandparents. Walking into their home was like a warm hug; I knew I belonged. Paneled walls and ’80s-era carpet were just the shell. The guts were the love, the loud dinners, the pallets spread out on the living room floor, and the ice cream we knew would be scooped out on our cereal the next morning. 

grandfather, granddaughterThough they were and are both precious to me, I never really worried about my grandma. She didn’t have health problems, and she seemed as spry as a teenager, even in her 70s and 80s. But there was always a nagging worry about Pawpop. After an annual cardiology visit one year, a doctor reported that three chambers of his heart had total blockages and that the fourth was nearly as bad. The doctor stated in passing that he didn’t know what was keeping my grandfather alive. 

I began to realize that my grandfather, by virtue of his heavy investment in my life, had become a second father to me. Worrying about his death was as scary as thinking about the death of my own father, and I felt loved and cherished by both. So I started wondering how that happened. 

Sure, he bought me gifts. But my grandparents were not wealthy, having spent their lives on the mission field and in pastoring small churches. They’d give me candy when I visited, and would take us for walks or to get ice cream when they visited us. But those weren’t the things that bonded like glue. It was letting us set up a lemonade stand in their front yard but making us pay them back for the ingredients. Or watching a movie with us in their basement, all snuggled in blankets. Or praying with us every time we left to travel back home. And it was also disciplining us for our bad behavior, because they loved us enough to care more about our hearts than their popularity. 

I’m currently 41 years old, and when I go to my grandparents’ house, which is just a half-mile from me, Pawpop still greets me at the door. He holds my face in his hands, rhetorically asking if anyone else has such beautiful granddaughters. While we sit and chat, he asks about my kids (if they aren’t with me) and about my husband’s business, and we always share a few old stories. And he still prays with me before I begin my very short drive home. 

I didn’t need another father. I have a great one! So I feel sort of over-blessed that I got another. Odds are good that I’ll lose Pawpop to death before my own father, and though that is to be expected (and I’ve long expected it), it will be no less devastating. My kids didn’t realize for years that he is my grandfather and not theirs, such are the continued relationships we are blessed to watch unfold. If I can be half the grandparent that he has been to me, I’ll feel like a success.

Kristen S
Kristen grew up all over the world as an Air Force brat, with amazing parents and eight siblings. She met husband Dave at college in Chicago, and, in addition to the Windy City, they lived in San Antonio and Northern Virginia before settling in Fort Worth in 2010. Along the way they managed to have six children: Molly (98), Warren (01), Henry (02), Carrie (04), Liam (06), and Donovan (11). Most of her time is spent homeschooling her brood, but Kristen is also a lover of Notre Dame and Seahawks football, IPAs, and winter. She believes in teasing her children mercilessly to keep them well-adjusted.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful and yes it brought tears to my eyes thinking of my own 90 year old “over-blessing” of a grandfather. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Uncle Billy is a treasure, like all of the Warrens, we are truly blessed to be part of such a big, and surprisingly close family. I suppose, now, we would need an arena to gather entire family for a reunion! Thak you for writing such a great post.

  3. Love reading your articles! This one brought tears, remembering how many times he has taken my face in his hands. I thought I was the only one that was given this special blessing! ?

  4. My wife,Debbie, and I were blessed to know Bill and Lola in the early 1980’s. He was our pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We have such fond memories of them both and have often wondered about their journey after leaving Idaho Falls. I learned so much from Bill and remember his total faith that God would provide for them. We count it as one of God’s blessings that we crossed paths with Bill and Lola.

    • I have wonderful memories of visiting Calvary Bapt when I was a little girl. I’m thankful you got to know my grandparents!

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