Today I watched a teenager who lives across the parking lot help an older gentleman – his grandfather, I think? – down the stairs from their apartment and into a waiting wheelchair below. S L O W L Y they crept down the steps, grandson all but carrying him to the bottom. Another woman – the older man’s daughter? – spotted them from behind and steadied the chair as the older man turned himself around with halting, shuffling steps. As he sat down, the grandson patted him on the back, with not one ounce of condescension. He rested his hand on the older man’s shoulder for a brief second, and in that second, I could see – from halfway across the parking lot – pure love in the gesture.
I grew up without grandparents. My last remaining one passed away when I was about four. And even though most of my memories of him involve staying with my mother at his apartment while she cared for him at the end, when he was very ill, these aren’t negative memories. I remember sitting at the breakfast table, eating bowls of Total Raisin Bran – the purple box was kept on top of the refrigerator in his teeny-tiny apartment kitchen. I remember sitting quietly in the corner coloring with giant, fat preschool crayons while he napped in the other room. As time progressed, he spent more time in bed, and when he was awake and feeling ok I was allowed to visit with him in his bedroom. He would lay there watching television, and I would sit on the floor next to him, popping up on my knees every so often to talk with him. He promised me that when he got better, he would take me to the park, and every day I wished that he would get better because Grandpa was awesome then and I couldn’t imagine how much more awesome he’d be at the playground.
As I watched that young man help his grandfather, a thought crossed my mind: that will be me with my parents. And I began to worry – not at the thought of them growing older and feeble, but at how I’d react. Would I be so kind? Or would I be the bitch I saw at WalMart last week, yelling at an older woman with whom she was shopping to “hurry up!” as the older woman pushed a cart laden with groceries behind her? Will I run out of patience? Will I resent them for simply being old?
Of course I will (though God strike me down if I vent my frustration at them directly, or worse – in public) because I am human. But as my thoughts drifted to my Grandpa, and I saw that young man’s love for his own grandfather, I was comforted by the fact that I’ve loved my folks since Day One, and will continue to do so for eternity, no matter what happens.