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April 02, 2005

AFSis sends.

Nice little story for a weekend post...

To the World You May Just Be SOMEBODY, but to Somebody YOU ARE THE WORLD!

My Great-Grandfather lived to be 100, and boy, did his hands ever tell a story. I think you'll all like this.


Grandpa, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if he was OK.

Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was OK. He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking, he said in a clear strong voice.

I didn't mean to disturb you, grandpa, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK I explained to him.

Have you ever looked at your hands he asked. I mean really looked at your hands?

I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making.

Grandpa smiled and related this story:

Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots.

They dried the tears of my children and caressed the love of my life.

They held my rifle and wiped my tears when I went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent.

They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son.

Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote the letters home and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle.

Yet, they were strong and sure when I dug my buddy out of a foxhole and lifted a plow off of my best friends foot. They have held children, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of my life.

But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandpa's hands and led him home. When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and wife I thank grandpa. I know he has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel his hands upon my face.

To the World You May Just Be SOMEBODY, but to Somebody YOU ARE THE

Update: Reading some of the comments, and the linking posts brought it together for me. Both of my grandfathers were good at their grandfather jobs, yet very different men. Pop, my mom's dad, was pure Arkansas class (and if you don't understand/believe think Southern Gentleman) who led a good and successful life as a salesman for Graybar Electric. Wonderful storyteller, great hand to hold when he took you for walks. A warm, funny, gentle, comfortable man. I loved him dearly.

My Dad's father was different. Hardscrabble son of immigrants who came into the US from Canada, he had a dark side, and had led a tough, tough life, marked by success, marred by his dark nature. An All-American football player at the Colorado School of Mines (when was the last time CSM had an all-American, I wonder?) he joined the National Army (WWI was the last time the US raised a specific formation distinct from the Regulars or Militia/Guard for a war) and went to war with - the National Guard. After the war, he took his degree in Geology and spent years roaming the midwest and west mapping the oilfields. If you buy gas made from oil pumped from Philips fields in Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas, you're burning gas from fields Daddy Jack surveyed. He spent 'off periods' doing work in the Candadian Rockies, and helped discover and map many of the fields near Calgary, too. He married a divorced woman with a child during the Depression - Mimi, my grandmother, Elaine, my Aunt, and sired my Dad. If you know the era, you know that was a rare act. They subsequent divorced (right after I was born) and Daddy Jack began the solitary life that I knew him from. I saw him infrequently, but he was always fun to be with, but always that dark shadow. When Dad was getting ready to go to Vietnam, he came to Denver (where Mom, my sister and I would remain) to see Dad before he went off. I could tell that Daddy Jack was very upset with Dad's imminent departure.

He lived in Palo Alto, where he moved in the 60's after he retired from Phillips, to be near the library of the University, to continue the research that kept him busy and out of trouble. In his last 7 years or so (he lived to by 95) the people who kept an eye on him for us told us that he would walk 7 miles or more a day - and mostly ate chocolate... I vividly remember going to visit him with my Dad while I was in command at Fort Riley. Daddy Jack was an artilleryman in the Great War, and he asked all sorts of questions about how we did things now - and he found our simplification of the math involved to be 'sissy' - heheheheh. But it's a testament to the Artillery School methods of instruction and instructors - that three generations of Redlegs spanning from 1917 to 1987 sat around a table writing (Daddy Jack by this time was deaf from the damage his ears took during the War and being around drill rigs) notes to each other - and not having to explain much except new terms - the concepts were still there, and the understanding of the details.

The piece Dbie sent spoke to me because when Daddy Jack was in his final days, mostly comatose, I spent hours by his bedside, holding those warm, gnarled hands that hand see and done so much - including holding my smaller, softer hands, reading to him. And if you squeezed, he squeezed back. He may have started his trek back "to the home of the father" but he still made time for me.

John | Permalink | Comments (6) | Something for the Soul
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