Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, so naturally I gravitated toward my husband’s grandfather. He teased me mercifully, but affectionately, and I came to love him as my own.
My husband and I had only been married a short time when his grandfather suddenly took a turn for the worse.
As we traveled to the hospital, my husband freely reminisced about his favorite childhood memories, including summer afternoons at Grandpa’s pool with ample amounts of cousins and homemade ice cream.
Through his recollections, I clearly envisioned his grandpa standing at the grill, clad in Bermuda shorts and an unbuttoned shirt, amused at the children’s antics. He carefully monitored the barbeque chicken until it boasted perfect grill marks and succulent tenderness.
My husband told me of his grandpa’s beloved backyard garden. On many occasion, he beckoned his grandson, (who he lovingly nicknamed “Goog”), to check out the plump tomatoes and thriving cabbage.
We arrived at the hospital as the sun was setting. Although a good portion of visiting hours remained, there was an urgency in my husband’s strides. Perhaps he instinctively knew something I didn’t … or with all that Grandpa talk, maybe he just couldn’t wait to see him.
Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared my husband for what he was about to see.
Grandpa was hooked to ominous-looking machines that beeped and hushed at a slow, rhythmic pace. There were so many tubes attached to his body. Like a clump of rubber bands, it was difficult to figure out where one tube ended and the other began.
I saw my husband hesitate for one moment, as if he needed a moment to absorb this new reality. The last time he saw Grandpa he was still doing his daily two-mile walks around the mall.
“He’s weak, but I know he would love for you to talk to him,” the nurse informed.
My husband pulled a chair next to his grandfather’s bedside. He rested his strong, slender fingers around his grandpa translucent hands that were lined with protruding veins.
“Do you remember the double header in Anderson, Grandpa?” His casual tone suggested the two of them were sitting side by side on the porch swing at Grandpa’s old house.
“I smashed a line drive to right field only to get thrown out at first base.” He laughed out loud. “Speed was never one of my fortes, was it Grandpa?”
My husband continued without hesitation.
“Remember the Bellarmine game? Coach made us run sprints for what seemed like three hours because of the bench-clearing brawl started by Goodson diving into their catcher in a home plate collision. I’ll never forget the look on my buddy’s face when he saw the whole team come out to help him settle the score.”
And as if he suddenly remembered I was there, my husband turned to me. I was standing off in the corner, partially not to intrude on this sacred moment and partially to hide my tear-stained face.
“My grandpa never told me when he was going to come to one of my college baseball games,” he explained to me just as one would bring someone up to speed if she or he missed the first part of the conversation.
He continued wistfully, “It didn’t matter if it was a Tuesday afternoon or if it required a four-hour drive to get there. I’d look up in the stands, and there he’d be.”
My husband appeared to be smiling at me, but actually I think it was more to himself when he quietly said, “Grandpa would just show up.”
And then he turned back to his most loyal baseball fan, grasping his grandpa’s pliable hand lovingly within his own.
“Thank you for showing up, Papaw.”
Grandpa died peacefully several weeks later. At his memorial service, many people spoke of his many incredible lifetime achievements as a star athlete, successful coach, and superior school superintendent.
But now, twenty years later, I think this man’s greatest contribution was his influence on my husband’s life.
I see it when my daughter says, “Daddy showed up at school for lunch today, and I didn’t even know he was coming!”
I see it when my husband says, “My sister and brother are running in a race this weekend, if we get on the road early tomorrow, we can show up and surprise them.”
I see it when I am about to head out to a mission event at the church and he suddenly jumps in the car and says, “Maybe they could use some extra hands.”
Just showing up.
A simple act suddenly becomes a representation of who you are today and an enduring legacy you leave behind tomorrow.
Now at this point, I could wrap up this tender story up with a tidy bow of warmth and affection. We could all walk away thinking how nice it would be to surprise a loved one today.
But I am going to take it one step further.
Because truly grasping what matters, (rather than simply going through the motions), sometimes requires going to a place where it may feel a bit uncomfortable.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals.
So here it is …
If you are going to go to the trouble of showing up unexpectedly as a gift to a loved one, I challenge you to really show up. Not only be physically present, but mentally and emotionally present, as well.
Let me put it like this …
When Grandpa sat at his grandson’s college baseball game, I am pretty sure he wasn’t on his Smartphone the entire time. He wasn’t sending text messages, checking email, or playing “Words with Friends.” Furthermore, Grandpa wasn’t sitting on the stands totally engrossed in “The Help,” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo,” nor was he chatting it up with the spectators around him.
When Grandpa showed up, every part of him showed up. He was THERE … not simply looking like he was there when he was really somewhere else.
And because this journey is about living in realness, I’ll tell you exactly why I decided to conclude today’s entry with a harsh bit of reality: I needed this reminder, so I thought there is a good chance someone else needed it, too.
Lately I have been Queen-of-Looking Like-I-am-Here, when I am really somewhere else. My highly creative mind is a blessing, yet it is also a curse. And sometimes I just don’t know when to turn the creative juices off and simply be in the moment.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals.
I am determined to improve on being fully present with my loved ones because I realize that when I am faking it, I am not only cheating them, but I am cheating myself. And in the process, we are both missing something extraordinary.
So here’s my latest effort …
Three days a week for this entire school year, my younger daughter and I will be going to the YMCA pool while Big Sister has swim team practice. I bring my suit; I get in the water; I watch and applaud my five-year-old daughter’s efforts. But do I really show up?
I think we all know the answer.
So the other day, I asked my younger daughter to grab an extra pair of goggles from our swim bag. I never wore goggles in my whole life.
She laughed when I put them on. (I knew better than to ask how they looked.) We proceeded to race back and forth between the wall and the steps for 45 minutes.
I asked if she thought she could swim the whole length of the pool now.
She surprised me by exclaiming, “Yes!” and then added, “If you put on your goggles and swim beside me, I know I can do it.”
78 kicks, 37 strokes, 22 smiles, and 150 bubbles later, she reached the end of the lane.
“I did it!” she screamed in delight.
And I know with every fiber of my being that this celebratory moment wouldn’t have happened if I had not bothered to showed up … really show up.
Just the simple act of putting on a pair of goggles created an impression that may forever shape my daughter’s vision of the kind of person I am.
The act of showing up becomes a representation of who you are today and an enduring legacy you leave behind tomorrow.
I think it’s worth it to show up … do you?
When is the last time you came unannounced to your child’s sporting events, school lunch, or extracurricular activities?
When is the last time you surprised the one you love by blowing off your to-do-list and making time for him or her?
When is the last time you called a dear friend and said, “Drop everything. We’re going to go have fun!”
Clear your schedule. Set aside a task that can wait. Take a break from domestic duties and work pressures and simply arrive. Arrive where you are least expected, but most welcomed.
Look at your calendar right now. There are a couple hours just waiting to be filled with the words, “Just show up.” Decide who and where … then DO it … really do it.
Because what you do today, does matter tomorrow.
The The Art of Showing Up by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.