A couple of years ago, when my grandfather came for his bi-annual visit, I recorded a conversation of ours. We talked of the past, and that brought me to compare our lives, in quality and length.
At first glance, his life seems to be coming to a close and mine seems to have a ways to go. In fact, that was my first thought.
But then I remembered – “Teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Or as the Message phrases the verse, “Oh! Teach us to live well!Teach us to live wisely and well!”
On that note, I wrote this brief bit, challenged to think more about the life I’m living.
He talks of the days.
He talks of the days when he didn’t have a hearing aid, the days of a full head of hair, he talk of the days when his hands were white, not mottled by frail veins. He talks of the days when he was young.
He amuses me with stories.
The first time he met a Yankee – I mistakenly thought he meant a New York Yankee.
He saw Hollywood stars arrive in the pride of the South. He waved and waved.
“I was in an office building, watching them walk the “Gone With the Wind” red carpet.”
I smile. I think of what my city is like now and I imagine what it once was.
His school’s rival was Tech High.
“I never [played pranks] like the other boys.” But? “But one time, I was called to the principal’s office because they ‘allegedly’ saw me put a chair on top of one of the portables.” He chuckles.
Did you do it?
“I’m not sure. I was accused, but I don’t know if I was ever convicted.”
Innocent until proven guilty, huh?
He tells me of a time when “cars were not so plentiful.”
It was a great time to grow up in Atlanta, he confides, eyes distant.
He had some relatives that fought in the Civil War – “the Confederate side, obviously.”
His high school reunion is this weekend. They have it every two years now because “people are dying.”
“It might be the last time I see some of the people.” I can’t tell if he’s thinking about his death or theirs.
He tells me he went to school with Mary Denmark, daughter of Dr. Leila Denmark. “She just died.”
She was 114, right? That’s crazy… to live that long.
He stares off in the distance, as he so often does. He whispers some words that I don’t know how to reply to. He’s 82 – almost. He’s lived through wars – he fought in the Korean War. He’s left his wife, his family – he started another. He’s had open-heart surgery; I’ve lost count of the number of times that he’s had pneumonia. 82 years on God’s green earth – he’s seen the good and the bad.
I’m 16 – almost. I’ve lived through the largest terrorist attack on America – the Iraqi War that was really a conflict. I’ve seen famous people die, I’ve seen people I know die. I can and I can’t relate.
I know I’m mortal. Every human being does. Here, sitting on this faded blue couch, we reminisce over what he witnessed and what I never will.
He doesn’t have much time left – I have so much, or so little. We peek back into the past and we mourn it.
Looking straight ahead, he says – almost to himself – “Time marches on.”