My 90 year old great-grandfather joins our group of early morning coffee drinkers, making it a four generation circle. “Good morning, Grampa!” we all say, and someone asks, “Did you have a good sleep?”
“I must have,” he answers just as he does every morning. He’s smiling and cheerful and holding his cane but not using it.
My mom looks up at her grampa. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“Oh, no,” he shakes his head, “I’ll get it myself.” He pauses a beat before adding, “I was thinking this morning that I’ve become more of a presence than a participant.”
None of us really know how to respond to this. We take it in, and I know that I am thinking he has taken care of all of us for 70 years–it seems only right that we carry his heavy bags, mow his lawn, and fetch his cups of coffee. My aunt says that he can do more. My mom laughs and tells him he can get his own damn coffee.
My sweet grampa smiles bigger and tells us, “It’s not a statement of unhappiness. It’s just a statement of isness.”
Y’all, how good is that? How graceful? How wise?
My grampa’s 90 years have made him more of a presence than a participant and that just is. I can relate to that so much in my own way. Sure, I don’t yet have 90 years of life giving me a free pass to “sit this one out” or that have earned me the privilege of being waited on, but my illnesses weigh me down to the presence status. I used to resent that. I used to not be able to grin about it or accept the isness of it. I thought about my lack of participation with nothing but unhappiness. Not my great-grampa, though. It’s a state of isness.
He does what he can, and when the battery on the weed eater gets low, he takes the time that it’s charging to charge his own batteries. He fills his role as storyteller, and he watches and listens to as we create our stories. He makes himself laugh. He teaches us to mix the perfect drinks. He passes on his knowledge. He loves.
I want to share the gracefulness of his isness, and I think spending time with him is helping me get there.