22: Grandpa’s Gift

22: Grandpa’s Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Grandpa’s Gift

My grandfather was a dirt-under-the-fingernails bluecollar worker all of his life. He provided for his family and never complained but, in his heart, he fancied himself a writer.

Grandpa would sit for long winter evenings in his rocking chair in the kitchen — writing, laughing, erasing and rearranging until he was satisfied. He didn’t want to be just any writer; specifically, he dreamed of being a joke writer for Bob Hope.

While growing up in his house, I thought that was the funniest joke of all — Grandpa, a writer for Bob Hope. But, whenever he brought out his boxes of jokes, I laughed with Grandma... assuming they were funny merely because Grandpa thought they were funny.

Every so often he rented a typewriter and, using the hunt-and-peck finger system, sat at the kitchen table diligently transferring his hand-written creations onto index cards. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be big enough to learn to type so I could type Grandpa’s jokes for him.

Several years later, I elatedly interrupted Grandpa — who was still writing jokes — to show him the glistening engagement ring I’d received the night before. Slowly and somberly, he removed his glasses, folded his paper and carefully put away his pencil. There was no laughter in his voice and his only words were: “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

I knew Grandpa didn’t dislike the man I was betrothed to; they got along quite well. What he could not accept was me marrying someone of a different religion.

After that day, Grandpa didn’t write any more jokes. In fact, our once loving home was suddenly filled with angry words and tears, and now I couldn’t wait to move out of the home I had grown up in.

Instead of anticipation, I despaired over thoughts of my wedding day. Of Grandpa not only refusing to walk me down the aisle, but refusing to set foot in my fiance’s church. The stubborn man made it quite clear that although he couldn’t stop me, he didn’t have to condone it, either. I was determined to marry even without my beloved grandfather at my side.

Preparations for our modest wedding were made out of Grandpa’s sight and hearing. Grandma worked on my dress during the day while Grandpa was at work. We prepared invitations at my in-laws’ home. At night, I stitched my dress behind the closed door of my bedroom to spare us all uncomfortable silences. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, I refused to let Grandma ask Grandpa to share in the expenses. I could be just as stubborn as he was and I was determined to let him know it.

The day before the ceremony, I set my pride aside and pleaded with Grandpa to be part of my wedding. He refused to attend. I had never known him to be so unbending. I always knew how he felt about this particular religion, but I never dreamed my final days at home would be so horrible.

That night, tears of frustration and pain soaked my pillow. My last night in this room, in this bed and in this house should have been filled with joy. Instead we were strangers on separate planets — a universe apart. How could he do this? How could I be married without Grandpa beside me?

My wedding morning dawned cloudy and dismal, a mirror image of my gloomy heart. I lay quietly looking around the room of my childhood, remembering the many times when Grandpa sat on my bed reading nighttime stories, soothing me after horrible nightmares and kneeling beside me for prayer.

I dreaded facing him at the breakfast table. Disheartened, I rolled over, sliding my hand up and under the pillow. Suddenly I felt something strange. An envelope? With a pounding heart, I carefully opened it and removed a letter written in Grandpa’s familiar feathery script.

“My Dearest Child....”

Grandpa apologized, pouring out his heart in the most moving, heartfelt way he knew. He was sorry for spoiling my joy the past months, ashamed of his dreadful, selfish behavior. He explained his feelings and beliefs and said that, although they were his, he realized he had no right to impose them on me. He went on to ask forgiveness and — at long last — promised to welcome my new husband into his home and his heart. Just as he had welcomed me all those many years before.

As I continued to read, I saw a change in the handwriting and noticed blurred ink where a teardrop had fallen onto the paper in a splatter. Suddenly tears filled my own eyes. But I wept for joy, not sorrow, when I read his humble plea, begging the “honor” of walking me down the aisle.

Grandpa never did sell any jokes to Mr. Hope, but the greatest thing he ever wrote was that single cherished letter to a beloved, grateful granddaughter.

~Nicolle Woodward
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul

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