It’s been a while since I posted, I’m afraid. Things have been a struggle for me since getting out of the psych ward, not to mention I’ve been rather busy trying to work as much as I can, and feeling like poop because my meds aren’t working. ANYway, the point is I’m sorry I haven’t been posting more. I’m hoping to get back to weekly posting from here on out. (Trying to, anyway.) But this post isn’t about me, it’s about my grandpa, Paul.
Trigger warning for death and loss of a loved one.
Grandpa Paul died this week after living a long, happy life. He was married to his wife, Lillian for over 60 years. He and Grandma Lillian had four amazing children, 8 wonderful grandchildren, 9 fantastic great-grandchildren, and too many dear friends to count. He was so generous in sharing his love, you couldn’t help but love him back. He was an author of many books, sharing snippets of his wisdom through words on numerous pages. Although I’m not a Christian, I do know quite a lot about Christianity from growing up around it, and I believe that Grandpa was about as close as you can come to what a Christian should look like: loving generously, never judgemental, selfless, and compassionate.
As a child I was lucky to go down to Kearney, Nebraska and visit Grandpa Paul and Grandma Lillian fairly often. I’d get dropped off with them for a week or two and we’d do a “writer’s workshop.” Grandpa encouraged me to write about whatever interested me, whether it was a fictional or factual story. One morning during every stay, he and I would have a date at Daylight Donuts, and another morning while I was there, we would make pancakes together. Well. He would make pancakes. I made a mess. Grandpa took me to the library to research anything I needed to know more about for my story. We’d go on relevent field trips (and some irrelevent ones, especially to the park) to find out more about my chosen topic, or just to spend time learning together. When I was finished with my story, Grandma would type it up for me, and we’d put it in one of those little presentation booklets so that I felt like I had really written a book.
Grandpa Paul highly valued education. Not just traditional education, but actual learning. He was in school for many years, getting various degrees and one day I asked why. He told me, “Every time I had a big, important question I needed answered, I’d go back to school and get a degree in it.” Grandpa also valued listening, something that I think is severely underrated in our society today. He was a counslor for years, in addition to teaching counseling at UNK. Going into counseling because he cared about people, he never made much money doing it. But he didn’t care about the money. He wanted to listen to people, and to help them. Even though I never sat in on one of his classes or office hours, I’d imagine he ended up counseling quite a few of his students for free. That’s just how he was.
And I deeply appreciated that about him. Shoot, I’m crying now. He always really heard me. From the day I could talk, he listened, really listened to what I had to say. As a quiet introvert, I often felt talked over and ignored during the few times I did speak up, but never with Grandpa. He always made sure I was heard. He’d find wisdom in my words that I didn’t realize was there. Grandpa made me feel like what I had to say mattered. He also never judged me negatively for my decisions, but supported me and helped me in choosing the right path to take. I always looked forward to the next time I could have one of our “sessions” where I could process my thoughts and ideas with someone who would listen and then offer insight.
For years, Grandpa had a radio show called “Learning From Children” (hence the title of this post), where he’d tell stories about kids offerring nuggets of insight without realizing it. He so valued children and their insights, in a way that a lot of people don’t. Kids weren’t just something cute to be taken for granted. To him, they were whole people, with just as much to offer as adults. They offer something different than adults, but just as valueable. His love for children is another thing I appreciated about him.
As an adult, I had the privilege to bond with Grandpa over helping him take care of my grandma, his wife. For over sixty years he was her husband. He provided for her, supported her, and encouraged her. For two years, Grandpa was her only caretaker. He tended to her, loved her, read to her, sang to her, prayed with her and for her. Toward the end of her life, she needed more care than he could provide alone. My mom, her siblings, and I took turns traveling to Kearney to care for Grandma Lillian. While there was a lot of down time, it was hard work. She needed help to do everything, and that’s what we were there for. I can’t imagine the strength it took for Grandpa to do it alone for as long as he did. As her time on Earth drew shorter, it became clear she wasn’t going to get better this time. She was sufferring, unable to use most of her senses except to experience the pain she felt. Food didn’t taste good to her, she couldn’t see very well, and she couldn’t hear much. When we watched movies with her, we’d have to pause often to explain what was going on. Even the ones she knew by heart, we’d pause to remind her of a humorous moment in the show so that she could laugh with us. I know how hard it was for me, but I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was for Grandpa to watch her slowly dying. To hear her say she wanted to die. He and I shared a lot of tears and many hugs.
Grandpa Paul was a beautiful soul. The legacy he left behind is his family and friends, who live on. All the people who’s lives he touched. We’re still here and we’re different and better because of him.