As many of you know, Tim’s grandfather has lived with us since Thanksgiving. Here’s an update on how that’s working for us:
Now for all the sordid details:
The upstairs attic room Pop inhabits has proved an ideal set-up, and Pop spends most of his time during the day there. He has the room divided into a bedroom, an office, a work area, and a reading area. It’s exactly like a little efficiency apartment, just without a kitchen. He also has his own bathroom (which he shares only when we have guests) just a few steps down from his room. I’m so thankful for the way God provided such a perfect option. Neither Pop nor we were exactly sure how the living arrangements would work when he first moved here, and for sure neither of us expected them to be so perfectly matched to our situation! Plus, I think he kind of likes that I painted it blue (*shwew*).
Even though I was fully on board with the idea of Pop coming to live with us, I had a few worries at first–most of them selfish. How would it affect Tim and my relationship, our flexibility, and our privacy? How would Tim handle the respect he has for his grandfather’s authority and his responsiblity to be the head of our home? How would I ever measure up to Tim’s grandmother, who was renown as an incredible housekeeper (both in the cooking and cleaning department)? What would I talk to Pop about all day long? And I was also worried that if I took over the things Pop had been doing for himself (shopping, cooking, cleaning) for so long, he might lose ground or lose a sense of purpose or lose something. How was I going to prevent that?
“Be anxious for nothing.”
That’s a command from God, and I’m slowly learning that He really means it.
Some things have changed for Tim and I–we don’t sleep in quite as much as we used to on a Saturday, we don’t eat Mexican food as often, and we don’t wander around the house in our underwear. But all these things are relatively minor adjustments that we’ve easily adapted to. We still have plenty of privacy and time to talk–in fact, sometimes I worry that Pop keeps to his room too much in the evenings. I still travel with Tim, especially on his shorter trips–I load up the fridge with leftovers before I leave and Pop easily keeps everything under control on the homefront while we’re gone. I don’t think he eats as much, though, so I do have a harder time than I used to in convincing myself that it’s really okay to leave. Tim helps me remember that it’s a good thing to do (in different ways) for all of us.
It seems that I’m always forgetting what a gracious leader Tim is. He doesn’t tout his authority nor hold it over anyone. He just quietly and steadily does what he knows to do. I’m amazed at how adeptly he’s incorporated Pop into our home…and how graciously Pop has responded. It’s something so delightful to experience. I notice it most during the little devotional time we try to have together at breakfast. Tim makes sure we take turns reading and praying, and we all share thoughts about the passage we’ve read and pray for each other’s concerns–in his turn, Pop prays for my parents nearly as often as he prays for his own children, and we for our part do our best to include Tim’s aunts and uncles when we pray. I love to hear Pop pray–it’s been one of the many unexpected blessings of his residence in our home. His prayers are full of a lifetime of dependence and trust. He comes to God like a beloved child to an oft-consulted Father. Eighty-six years worth of experienced faith undergird Pop’s prayers, and it puts my head-knowledge Christianity to shame.
My housekeeping skills still leave much to be desired, especially in the cleaning/organizational area–but Pop has never said anything to make me feel like I am lazy or don’t measure up. He’s never even hinted at it (and I have a radar for that sort of thing that’s finer tuned than a very finely tuned thing). Not only that, but he does all (and I mean every single one) of my dishes for me at least twice a day with faithful and cheerful regularity–which I’ve found incredibly freeing. It leaves me that much less overwhelmed and that much more energized to tackle cooking and sweeping and clearing the counters and sorting mail. Plus, Pop loves my cooking. He eats just as much as Tim does, and he’s starting to put on a (very) little (much needed) weight. It’s become almost a game with me–or at the very least a source of great delight–to see how much I can feed him, and the fact that he has seconds at almost every breakfast and dinner is sweet victory.
It was very silly of me to think that I would have to spend my days entertaining Pop. I’d forgotten that he is used to spending them quietly and alone, and enjoys times of peace and solitude. He spends 75% of his day upstairs in his room reading, sorting photographs, praying, and resting. The three of us eat breakfast and supper together, and Pop and I share lunch. We talk easily at meals, and if I don’t have anything to say, then we just eat in companionable silence. I used to hate eating lunch alone, and I think Pop did, too. I’m so thankful to have his company at the noon meal! I’m eating more (and healthier) than I was for quite awhile before he came. Other than meals, Pop comes down each morning shortly after breakfast to get the paper from the driveway and shortly after lunch to check the mail. I knock on his door whenever I’m off to the grocery store just to let him know. I do spend more time and forethought in planning three full meals than I did when it was just Tim and I, but even though at times it takes a bit more effort, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as what I once anticipated.
While Pop lets me do his grocery shopping and cooking, he hasn’t become a couch potato in his time with us! He continues to contribute much to our household–both in ways that he feels are worthwhile and in ways that we appreciate so much. I’ve already told you that he does all the dishes–and he’s very insistent about both Tim and I leaving them for him. I think he’s only let Tim give him a day off twice in over three months. He gets the mail, takes out the compost, and helps get the recycling to and from the curb every other Tuesday. He picks up his own prescriptions, does his own banking, and drives himself back and forth to his church. He pays our internet/phone bill and slips me a twenty as often as I let him when he knows I’m headed to the grocery store. He balances our young, energetic youth with his slow, wise age. He broadens our horizens. He shares with us mistakes he’s made and lessons he’s learned. He is a living model to us of Christ in situations that are far beyond our years–his contentment, his humility, his courage, his love for his children, and his care for us–all in the face of age, fatigue, change, widowhood, and other things he faces–are a precious testimony to me of his faith. I hope I have even a bit of his character by the time I am a grandmother!
So as you can see, God has turned my anxieties into profound and unexpected blessings.
Another unexpected blessing–I again have a grandparent! My grandparents died while I was in highschool and college, and even when they were alive we didn’t often get the chance to spend normal, everyday time together. Pop has taken me in from the very first day he met me (about two days after I’d officially become Tim’s girlfriend–I still remember the warm sparkle in his eyes as he pulled me into a hug and then served me the supper he’d made special), and he and Tim’s aunts and cousins were the first to make me feel ‘known’ here in Richmond (a wonderful, life-giving feeling in a place of strangers!). I love the way I’ve continued to get to know him better since then, especially in the last few months. We also see more of the rest of the ‘local’ family, since they are now drawn to our house by their patriarch. 🙂
In fact, I would say the only really downside to the entire situation is the geographical distance it’s put between Pop and his two local daughters and grandchildren. We live across town (between 20 and 30 minutes) from Pop’s former abode, which was just down the road from Tim’s aunts and cousins. Pop still keeps in close touch with them by phone (daily). They have him over for lunch after church every Sunday, and we try to have them over for supper most Fridays. Still, it’s nothing like the frequency and convenience it was before, and that’s one thing that I wish were different.
So basically all that to say that if you ever, EVER have the opportunity to house your husband’s grandfather–do it.