Tomorrow I go play games with Grandpa.  The last visit was special to me because I learned something about three of my kids.  And what I learned gives me hope that they will develop into compassionate and caring adults.

I visited Grandpa twice in April.  Twice, because my fifteen-year-old daughter, Mack, requested the second visit.  She had enjoyed the previous time she got to play games with Grandpa and wanted to go again.  Since four of our seven kids had a day off from school during the week that we were “unplugged” I decided it would be a good time to let the kids visit Grandpa again.  Mack, Hoob, and Yawlin accompanied me to Grandpa’s house.  Shroom, my stepson, had already disappeared to a friend’s house, and since he doesn’t really know my Grandpa, I didn’t push the issue of having him join us.

Grandpa wasn’t feeling well when we arrived.  He joined us at the kitchen table for a game of Clue, but I could tell he wasn’t really into it.  Grandpa started to reminisce.  He got out his old year book and showed the kids all the pictures of himself.  He was on the football team and was captain of the track team; there was a picture of him throwing the javelin; he was in the chorus and a member of a men’s club called the D-Men.  He showed us Grandma’s picture and told us the story of when they met.

“I went to the Zenith Dance with another girl,” Grandpa said with a chuckle.  “While there, my date asked me if there was any other girl there that I wanted to dance with.  That was when I spotted your Grandma.  I pointed to her and said, ‘that one!'”

Grandpa says he never dated another girl but Grandma after that.

Grandpa moved on in his remembrances to telling us of his childhood friend, Delilah.  She was the only child his age that lived nearby so they did everything together.  She was like a sister to him.  She grew up, married, and moved to Arizona.  Later in life she contracted cancer and died. 

Grandpa’s facial expression changed.  There was a wistful, sad look in his eyes.  He told how Delilah’s husband brought her body back to Utah so Grandpa could conduct the funeral.  This brought more memories to mind.  Grandpa told of conducting the funeral of a little girl who had been killed by a horse.  He remembered several members of a family who had drowned as their car was washed away in a flash flood and another family that had lost five family members in a horrible car crash.

“Have you ever seen five caskets lined up in a row at one funeral?” Grandpa asked.

Then Grandpa moved on to a story I’ve heard him tell before.  Grandpa is sure Grandma hates him.  She wanted to die at home.  Grandpa’s kids talked him into leaving Grandma in the hospital where she could receive better care.  She died in the hospital.  To this day Grandpa swears that when he bent down to kiss Grandma good-bye in her casket before the start of her funeral he heard her snap, “Get away from me!”  He is positive Grandma doesn’t want to see him when he gets to the other side because he let her die in the hospital instead of at home.

The entire time Grandpa was talking I was watching him and noticing the facial expressions that matched the pain in his voice.  I wasn’t paying attention to my kids until I heard a loud sniffling.  I turned and saw eight-year-old Yawlin leaning forward on the kitchen table with tears streaming down his face.  He made no attempt to hide them.  I looked at Yawlin’s older sisters to see if they had noticed Yawlin crying.  Hoob had turned so her face couldn’t be seen, but I could see a lone tear hanging from her chin.  Mack was staring straight ahead with two tears trickling down her cheeks.

My sweet, wonderful children were touched by what they were hearing their “Grandpa Great” say.  They weren’t writing him off as some old geezer with stories to tell.  They were feeling what he was feeling.  I was glad that I had brought the kids along.  Yes, the stories were sad, and the kids talked about them for quite some time after the visit, but a stronger bond between the three of them and Grandpa was forged.  They are capable of compassion.  They can feel what others are feeling.  I will be forever grateful for the exercise in empathy my kids were provided that day.