I can see him now: shoulders slightly hunched, white hair uncovered, walking slowly up the wooded lane. He doesn’t pause as often as he once did, because he doesn’t hear the birds and deer quite as well anymore.
His pace, though slowed by time, is purposeful. He has done this walk before. In fact, he has done it thousands of times. He is walking home from work.
I can see him stop at the mailbox, glance across the field at the neighbors horses, wave and smile at the stranger driving by, and resume his walk across the lawn, up the steps, and into the house.
His shoulders are still hunched slightly forward. As a matter of fact, I can still hear Grandmother scolding him gently for his poor posture. But you see, she recognizes that he has earned that hunch.
I have always been a little intimidated by Grandfather. This is not because I doubt his love, or felt unaccepted, but because he always seemed infinitely wiser than I. Imagine this: you are a young child who thinks that your dad can do everything.
Your father runs into something he has not done before, is not familiar with, and can’t figure out. Who does he call? Grandfather.
Far too frequently when I get to see Grandfather, I really don’t know what to say. It seems to me that he has already experienced or observed just about anything that I can comment on. In the face of such patience and wisdom I feel foolish and insignificant. But I digress…
Grandfather “earned” the hunch. Countless hours have been spent setting type, checking margins, proofreading, dealing with customers, and generally handling a myriad of other daily details which pertain to his profession – printing. If I understand correctly, printing wasn’t his first choice for a profession. He wanted to work on cars, maybe be a mechanic.
For years, his Christmas gifts from the family were tools, each one taking delight in finding some gadget that he didn’t already have. He did plenty of work on cars, but he rarely got paid for it. Rather, he would take some of his very limited “spare” time to help some member of the family with their vehicle problem. No, Grandfather isn’t a mechanic, he is a printer.
You see, he got married and had a family. This wasn’t a bad thing; Grandmother was the light of his life. I could see it in so many ways, but one of the ones that has become apparent to me recently is the hunch of his shoulders.
In a world that tells us increasingly that we should abandon responsibility and chase our dreams, he abandoned his dreams because of love.
Daily, slowly, patiently, lovingly, he worked for the family he cared for. He provided.
Grandfather is not an all work and no play kind of fellow either. When he has opportunity to spend time with one of his sixteen grandchildren or twenty-one (I think) great-grandchildren, you see a familiar twinkle in his eye and a wide, easy grin. You hear a quiet chuckle, watch him play with the younger ones in the family, and know that he enjoys family immensely. I remember times also when I got to see that twinkle turn a little to the mischievous side. Posing riddles, hiding a ball, or absolutely dominating the upstart generation in a board game ironically called Domination, Grandfather loves having fun with his family.
Yet I still see the hunch, and marvel at the love it represents. Day after day, year after year, Grandfather has given himself for those he loves.
Society calls glamorous the kind of love that abandons all in a moment of time for the object of affection. Yet it fails to realize that the acting out of love requires a daily resolve and a commitment that cannot be measured out in advance.
Grandfather has modeled that for me, and for many others. There are many today who have a mistaken idea of heroes. Those who can hit a ball, throw a ball, run faster, or jump higher than you or I are not heroes. In fact, many of them life a life that is filled with cheating, lying, and promiscuity.
I can think of a couple kinds of heroes. Some heroes give their lives for others in a military uniform. Others, seldom recognized, give their lives to the service of those they love.
I have a cousin who is getting married today. She is a beautiful young lady, and I wish her all the best that life may bring. I would love to see the years unfold with “happily ever after” kind of love for her. I also wish for her something deeper, something even more precious. I wish for her the kind of love that ignores the world around, in good times and bad, and works with and for each other. I wish for her the kind of commitment that can endure the hard times, sickness, poverty, hard work, and expectations not fulfilled. I wish for her the type of companionship that comes through such times with a deeper love, in spite of hunched shoulders, worry lines, or other changes of physical appearance.
I wish for her the kind of love that shows itself in shoulders slightly hunched.
I can see him now. If you drive by his home on Monday you probably can too. I appreciate the depth of love that Grandfather has given to his family. I can never seem to say the words I want to when I am with him, so I hope you will pardon me if I try it here.
Grandfather, I love you. I have struggled for months to find the words to write you a letter and tell you how much you mean to me. This does not replace that letter – it is coming. If you read this ( and I am going to try to make sure that you get it), I want you to know that you are loved, appreciated, and treasured. I want you to know that I admire you, that you are one of my heroes. I want to thank you for your example.
There are many symbols of love, but today I cannot think of a greater one than the slightly stooped shoulders of a great man.
About the Author: I am a factory worker for fifty or more hours in a normal week. I am a classically trained musician. I am a lover of nature and its beauty. I am an amateur photographer. I am a father of four boys. I am a lucky husband to one wife. I am a Pennsylvanian, not by birth but by transplantation. I am a Christian. I am an average American.I have one house, two vehicles, no pets (oops, I forgot the goldfish), great parents, seven siblings, too much to do, not enough time to do it in, and a great fear of the direction our country is heading. I am an average American. I like apple pie, fireworks, spring, science, a good conversation, learning, barbershop quartets, model rocketry, and my freedoms. I am an average American.