I met Grandpa Don when I was 20 years old. How does one meet a grandpa at that age? He was my step-grandpa.
Step-anything brings to mind a whole lot of stereotypes, many of which I have lived. My mom married my first stepfather when I was just over a year old. He was an abusive, controlling jackass, but nonetheless a large part of my childhood. His parents lived less than a quarter of a mile from our Iowa farm home, and I remember going visiting them frequently.
Some memories are good ones. Every Wednesday we would go eat a pancake breakfast after feeding the sheep and shoveling some pens. But I also remember when my cousins spent the night there and I was told, “Maybe another time.” I remember the Christmases when my present was visibly less than the “real” grandchildren’s. I remember being called, “the other ones.” I remember them defending their abusive son, and I remember that I never heard another word from them after my mother left him.
When my mom started dating my current step-dad (this is the only time I will refer to him as such. He is the only person who has ever been a dad to me in my life), I was less than receptive. I wasn’t angry with him, I was angry with her. How could she move on so quickly and throw us into another horrible situation?
But I slowly discovered, it wasn’t another horrible situation.
I can’t pinpoint the first time I met my “new” grandparents. No doubt at an extremely awkward holiday family gathering. I was older than their other grandchildren by 10+ years, introverted, and terrified of new situations. But right from the beginning, they treated me like a “real” grandchild. They remembered my birthday, we had a Christmas stocking at their house. In fact, I recently had a hilarious conversation with my 14-year-old daughter about why she doesn’t actually resemble my dad because they don’t actually share DNA. She forgot, because we were never treated like step-anythings.
Grandpa Don passed away on Sunday. I will remember him for his quiet, calm demeanor. The fact that he was an introvert who avoided going to social functions at all costs. His rabid love of the Iowa Hawkeyes. That he always crossed his leg over the other in his recliner. But mostly, I just remember being accepted.
This week has been anything but easy, but I feel like the Lord gave me this verse.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. – Psalm 115:16
Grandpa Don leaves behind a legacy of military service, a wife of almost 60 years, and a family who loved him. Even us step-anythings.
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free!
I follow the plan God laid for me.
I saw His face, I heard His call,
I took His hand and left it all…
I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss…
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life’s been full, I’ve savored much:
Good times, good friends, a loved-one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief –
Don’t shorten yours with undue grief.
Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.