Mornings used to be my favorite time of day when my family visited my grandparents’ house. Early mornings while most people were still sleeping. I would wake up to the smell of coffee and hear muffled voices in another room. Instead of rushing out of bed to join them, I would quietly crawl toward the kitchen shielded behind the breakfast bar. I would sit there and listen to the two men quietly make small talk as one of them busied himself preparing to make breakfast once everyone was awake. I don’t know what lead me to spy on Dad and Grandpa Cole on those mornings, but something told me to take it all in and relish the special quiet times.
From an early age, I seemed worshipped the ground my Grandpa Cole walked on. Visits to my grandparents’ house usually involved me following him around like a puppy wanting to “help” him with his daily tasks. I remember waking up early enough to watch him do his daily calisthenics, a routine left over from his days in the Navy. I loved any opportunity to accompany him to his woodworking shop to see all the projects he had going. To this day, I can’t see or smell sawdust without being transported back to that shop.
After my dad passed away, Grandpa seemed to step in and try to fill the gaping hole that was left behind. Though he had always been a big part our lives, he became an even larger presence in my dad’s absence. At least that is how it felt to me. After Mom, Grandpa was the first person I would show report cards, tell about accomplishments, and go to with problems. He attended every band concert, awards banquet, and special event he was invited to. I had lunch with him the day I got my driver’s license and he happily escorted me when I was in high school homecoming. He was always there.
My favorite thing to do with my grandpa was go fishing. I would venture to say that was a hit with all the grandchildren and probably the entire family. Grandpa took a lot of pride in the pond he dug and stocked with his own two hands. I think he took just as much pride in the time spent around it with his family. I can’t count the number of summer days that were spent around that fishing hole. Looking back, I don’t remember much about actually catching fish, but I can see the countless life lessons we were taught: patience to sit and wait for a bite, responsibility in taking care of all the equipment so it could be used over and over again, communicating with others so lines weren’t crossed and tangled, respect for the land and animals…even the snapping turtles. Most importantly though, we were learning how to simply spend time with loved ones.
Every year on my birthday I knew who would be the first to call me. It was usually very early in the morning, but even if I didn’t answer he would leave the same message as if he were talking to me. His froggy singing voice would croak out a verse of Happy Birthday followed by something along the lines of, “we love you girl and wanted to wish you a happy birthday. We’ll talk to you later.”
The walls of my grandparents’ den were covered in photographs. Every school picture of each grandchild and great-grandchild were proudly on display. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone take as much pride in their family as my grandpa did. His devotion to my grandma throughout her battle with alzheimer’s was the most remarkable testament to his strength. The fact that they passed away within six weeks of each other left us with a beautiful story of true love. The legacy he left behind is a daunting one to try to fill, but one in which I take immense pride.
Sadly, we seem to never know how much we appreciate something until it’s gone. My first birthday after Grandpa passed away I remember sitting in my car around 9 a.m. trying to figure out what was missing. Something didn’t feel right, like I had forgotten to do something. It hit me hard and fast that I hadn’t gotten my birthday wake up call from Grandpa. I never realize how those short calls used to make my special day seem all the more special.
With another birthday quickly approaching, I miss my grandpa. I think about the phone call I won’t be getting. I think about wanting to learn one more life lesson down at the pond. Thankfully, another aspect of Grandpa’s life left me with the wonderful solace of knowing that one day I will see him again. That man loved Jesus. I have absolutely no doubt about that. His dedication to church, prayer, and reading the bible were always present in his everyday life.
I would give anything to spend another morning having breakfast with my Grandpa Cole. His eggs were always cooked just right, the bacon fried to a perfect crisp, and his biscuits reliably burnt on the bottom. Watching that man cook breakfast was like watching a painter create a masterpiece, made even better because it was all done out of the purest of love.
Maybe, if I were allowed a peek into heaven, I would once again see my dad and grandpa sipping coffee around the breakfast bar waiting on everyone else to get there. Waiting to be reunited with the loved ones they had to leave a little earlier than they would have liked. If heaven is as simple as seeing Grandpa’s smiling face asking me how I would like my eggs, I can’t wait to go. Until then, I will continue to use the lessons that great man taught me and strive to live a life of which he would be proud.
Grandpa never ended a conversation with goodbye. He always simply said, “talk to you later.” I’m thankful by following in his footsteps and seeking to live my life for Christ, I will have the chance to do just that, talk to him later.