I loved going out to the farm and spending the night because it meant that if I woke up early enough, it would be just me and Grandpa Bud sitting at the table together while he drank his coffee. I don't remember what we talked about but I do remember the ways his eyes sparkled and that I felt completely safe in his presence.
Grandpa Bud introduced me to the simple pleasures of buttered crackers dipped in milk, bread dipped in milk, and my favorite as a child, sugar sandwiches--bread spread with butter and cinnamon sugar (or just plain sugar) sprinkled on top.
I learned about cows, separating cream from the milk, and playing UNO from Grandpa Bud. I also learned a lot about love and generosity.
Several years ago we had a falling out. One of Grandpa Bud's grandsons had molested one of my nephews. Grandpa Bud was angry that my sister had called the police and reported it. It was a tremendous divide. Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie said some awful things to my sister and so I simply stopped talking with them and pretty much everyone on that side of the family. I was crazy angry and rightfully so. I supported my sister and nephew 100%, I still do. What happened to him was wrong and my cousin needed to get help and accountability, he wasn't getting it from the family, she had to call the police.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about Grandpa Bud as he died on Valentine's Day. Before I couldn't understand how he came down on the side of my cousin instead of my nephew. I'm not sure that I completely do now but I think I'm a little closer to it. Grandpa Bud was kind and loving, he saw the best in people. He saw the best in my cousin. My cousin had had it rough as a child, without a doubt. Grandpa Bud wanted to protect him and keep him safe. I think he was also in denial and minimized what had happened because it didn't fit in his picture of who my cousin was. The thing that is sad to me, is that my sister called the police not out of anger but out of concern for our cousin getting the help he needed because we saw that if we didn't nothing else was going to happen and he'd probably end up repeating it and hurting other children and possibly going to jail for a very long time. I wish Grandpa Bud could have seen and known that rather than only protecting our cousin. I wish he would have been able to support and show love to my sister and nephew they way he did for our cousin.
As the years passed, there has been more interaction with Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie. We never spoke of it but Grandpa Bud's eyes still sparkled with love and kindness. His laughter continued to bring joy to those who were blessed to hear it. I think each of us experienced a bit of forgiveness. I hope so anyway.
My heart broke when I heard the news. I hadn't cried so hard in a long time. I'm thankful that in the past few years I got to see and talk and laugh with him again. I am blessed that I saw my sister laugh and talk with him again so that I could too. I'm thankful that while I'll never forget I have forgiven. I think I may even understand a little bit, I still wish it would have been different but I understand better.
I'm thankful that Grandpa Bud can breathe deeply again, that he is without pain. I can see him fishing in his overalls, having a smoke with that big beautiful smile on his face and winking good-bye.
I love you Grandpa Bud. Thank you for making me feel safe and special.