So, strictly speaking, I am not a grandfather. But with numerous nephews and nieces and their children and grands and greats, plus dearly beloved friends of all ages, it does appear I am called to such a role.
Of course, no one wants to be preached at. Or to be told we did it better way back when! Certainly I never accepted such imposition. What I do recall enjoying in the presence of my elders was simply to sit with them and savor their conversation or their silence. Here, to my youthful mind, was a beautiful being, clothed in perhaps decrepit flesh, who had lived bravely. Courage poured out of them, strengthening the sinews of my heart.
Now, in my 80th year, can I be that bringer of courage to others? Not if what I have to offer lies only in the past. The old ones I remember with joy flooding my heart even now were those who had no time to stop living.
Like my Aunt Esther, a woman of elegant beauty in the early photographs, whom I knew in her 70s, living alone in a one-room shack her dead husband had constructed of plywood and insulated with old newspapers to keep out the Manitoba wind. Once a week in summer she would walk ten miles to the nearest streetcar and ride into Winnipeg for her pernicious-anemia liver shot at the hospital. She would then visit her older sisters and catch the last streetcar out of town for the ten-mile moonlit walk home. In my early teens I enjoyed riding my bike out along the Red River, always ending with a quiet visit in Aunt Esther’s garden.
Well, times are different now. But I can assure myself that a grandfatherly presence is never out of date.