90: A Treasured Gift

90: A Treasured Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

A Treasured Gift

“Grandpa’s dying,” Mom called to tell me. The hospital had sent her father home with little time left. My aunt and cousin had already moved in to provide around-the-clock care. Mom felt she should be there, but we’d been estranged from her family for more than twenty years. I agreed to go with her for moral support.

Instead of being tense and awkward, however, the visit turned out to be warm, loving and special.

After we arrived, my grandfather gestured at the wall. “Kimmie, see that?” he said, struggling to sit up. “I tell all my friends my granddaughter drew that for me!”

A framed piece of art hung over the television. I didn’t recognize it. Keeping my smile as I crossed the room to get a closer look, I mentally ran through diplomatic ways of telling him he was mistaken. Getting closer to the drawing, my eyes widened. There was my signature, plain as anything! Stunned, I tried to recall any information about this picture. How could I have completed such detail but not remember it?

Like an open door allowing a flood of light into a dark closet, I suddenly remembered. I was sixteen when I’d drawn this chalk pastel picture of a goldfish for him — a man I didn’t know well, except as my mother’s father. Everything became clear, and I remembered why I’d drawn this for him. That Christmas I had purchased a Bible for my grandmother. I’d added a box of colored pencils with instructions for marking special verses. I felt excited about this personal, significant gift.

Then I puzzled over what to do for my grandfather. It would look odd giving a Christmas gift to one grandparent but not the other. I prayed for a solution. Then I realized I could give him something personal as well — a gift of my artwork. I drew a goldfish on a black background, because that seemed adequately masculine. I worried over whether my grandfather would care about a silly fish picture. But as I worked on all of its colorful oranges, with a tinge of white in the flowing tail and a touch of blue in its darting eyes, I prayed that my gift would touch his heart.

With little contact before or after that Christmas long ago, I’d assumed my grandfather didn’t care for my siblings and me. I wasn’t offended, but accepted it pragmatically. Some men simply aren’t comfortable around children. I assumed that was true for him.

Now I stared at the fish hanging on my grandfather’s paneled wall. Shame filled me and tears blurred my vision. He had treasured my gift all those years, and I never knew.

Needless to say, I returned for several more visits, getting acquainted with Grandpa. He shared with me about his service in World War II. He told me about his work building prototypes for Boeing’s commercial jet airplanes. He met my sons — his great-grandsons — before he died.

After the funeral, my aunt and cousin approached me. “We want you to have this,” my aunt said, smiling through tears. In her hands she held the goldfish picture.

The treasured drawing now hangs on my kitchen wall. When I tell visitors about it, and I tell them about my grandfather, my voice always catches when I share about the error of assumption, the mystery of relationships — and the amazing power of a treasured gift.

~Kimn Swenson Gollnick
Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul

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