As a child, I grew up hearing my paternal grandfather, Roy, described by friends and relatives as the most God-like man anyone had met. My grandfather was generally embarrassed by these remarks. Our ancestors had come from England and my grandfather was a man of modest means who easily did for others.
He drove widows to church and did their tax returns. Grandpa anonymously bought groceries for struggling families he barely knew. He kept our neighborhood kids in ice cream every summer and lent whatever he had to anyone who asked — money, car, lawn mower, you name it. He wasn’t the most talkative person and yet he spoke to everyone, no exceptions.
As their first grandchild, I was very close to my grandparents. When I had my stroke, it pained my grandfather and he had difficulty being in my hospital room. When they visited me several times a week, he’d give me a quick kiss, bring me jokes, cartoons and funny stories to read, and leave me with my grandmother. In the hospital lobby, he’d listen for hours to the ball game on his transistor radio. Though their drive home from the hospital was nearly two hours, he never pushed my grandmother to leave. Over many months they often spent the entire day with me; working around appearances from my doctors, tests and therapies. My grandfather supported my grandmother’s way of caring for me and found ways to manage his despair.
When I was newly paralyzed, I tearfully asked my father, Ron, who lived with his wife in New York City at the time, how I was going to survive with a disability. I was 19, had just returned for my second year of college and had been dumped by my longtime boyfriend. My father Ron was fairly uncomfortable having this conversation with me. My question was profound and I was very emotional. After selecting his words carefully, he told me that I had a good head on my shoulders and that I would figure my life out. I remember longing for him to tell me that he’d take care of me, that I was still pretty and I’d find another boyfriend and put my life back right side up. My father Ron conveyed to me that he didn’t have my answers. He trusted I did.