The day my Granddad died my father came home from the hospital and got out a can of green paint and began to paint the ceiling of the back kitchen. Mom said “No Bill, don’t! Don’t start painting now. It doesn’t have to be done; it’s not that important.” but Dad said “It is important Jean. It has to be done.” and he gathered together his brush and some old rags and set up the step-ladder in the corner of the room. Then he began to meticulously brush the paint onto the boards, and into the cracks, a dark green colour, the same as what was already there. Tears ran down his cheeks and onto his shirt front. He tried to push them back into the corners of his eyes with the back of his hand. Before long he had green circles under both eyes, like big bruises, as if his eyes had seen something so terrible that it inflicted the force of a prize fighter’s punch to both eyes.
It was strong-smelling oil based paint and its odour soon permeated every inch of the house as Dad worked without interruption, not bothering to talk to anyone as they passed by. The back kitchen had been a summer kitchen in earlier times but it had since become a combined mud room and laundry area. As we eight kids came and went through, past our silent father each of us sensed the sudden change in the natural order of things in our world, it was so quiet. Dad had grown up in this house and had always lived here, except for the five years he lived in the little white house which he had built next door,when he first married Mom. Until last week Granddad had lived there, not more than a shout away, ever since we had traded houses ten years before. Granddad had been having lunch and supper at our house for many of those years, ever since Grandma had passed away.
My father was a fastidious painter and his work always reflected that. His hands and arms were usually fairly clean as he worked away, but not that day. The paint must have been more runny than usual. I wondered as he looked up at the ceiling, repeatedly brushing paint into every crevice and crack, was he really just looking up at the boards or was he looking up because he was thinking of Granddad now far far above them? Would Granddad be leaning down over the edge of a cloud and thinking “Good Job Billy, I meant to get around to that second coat a long long time ago but I just never did find the time.”?
When Mom called us all to the supper table, Dad came in to the kitchen all cleaned up again. His eyes were red and swollen and he looked like he might have burns under his eyes and on one of his cheeks. I thought at first that he might have done that with paint thinner or solvent but now that I am much older I have seen that same look in my own reflection in the mirror far too many times. I know exactly what it was from. That’s what grief looks like.
The last time I saw my Granddad was a few hours before his last breath, when we oldest three were allowed to take a turn to be with him for a moment or two to say goodbye. As I put my cheek next to his, so that I could hear him better, he asked me about my first date, the one with the Junior Farmer which I wrote about in yesterday’s post. He asked “How was that banquet you went to?” I told him “It was great,Granddad. Really nice!” Then he said ‟You’ll be going to a lot more of them. The fellows will be asking you to a lot more.” Then he said “You take care of my boys for me now. Will you?” and I said “Yes Granddad, I will, I promise.”
I sometimes think about the fact that the last thing that Granddad asked me about was a banquet. No matter how many wedding banquets and other feasts I have been to, no matter what we were celebrating, I now know that there is one more in my future that will surpass all the rest. That’s because those who are invited to it are blessed, according to Revelation 19:9. I look forward to that day when we shall be around a banquet table together, my Granddad and I, and all those present in Heaven on that great day of celebration. I’ve already accepted my invitation to be there, and I hope you do too.
And, as for you boys that I love so dearly, a promise is a promise!