This weekend we celebrated my Grandpa’s 80th birthday. Eighty years. You would love him. Everyone does. And I am not just saying that because he is my Grandpa. He is really that great. He is a salt of the earth kind of man. He was raised on sweet corn and prayer. He has dedicated his whole life to God, his family, and his farm.
He married my grandma and they had 4 children together. Those 4 children gave him 14 grandchildren and those 14 grandchildren gave him 6 great grandchildren, with two more on the way. My grandma sadly left us 14 years ago after a battle with cancer. Through her illness I watched him support her every waking moment. After her death, even in his own sadness, I watched him support all of us as we mourned our loss. He has always been that kind of guy.
Oh, there is more. He isn’t just a supportive guy, he is an accepting guy. One of my favorite things about him is the way he always considered his in-laws his own. I have heard him refer to my mom and dad as his “kids” multiple times. He calls my husband, John, his grandson. His love of family is too great to let things like “blood relation” matter. So a few years after my Grandma left us, he announced that he was getting married again, and we all welcomed her with open arms. We had learned from the best. He is the ultimate Family Man.
I want to go on. I want to go on and on and on. I want to tell you how much my boys love him. I want to tell you how even at 80, he is notorious for his epic sword fights with Hank. How Gus is oddly obsessed with him (most likely due to the fact they have the same hair style). And how every time my kids see him, they MUST play baseball. Because Grandpa Great and baseball go together, always. I won’t go on and on and on. But I want to, just so you all know.
Now that you all know how amazing my Grandpa is, you can imagine the devastation we felt when he had a stroke. I was there immediately. We all were. Because as my Uncle Bruce says “There are close families, and then there is ours.” And because God knows what he is doing, the stroke directly affected his speech and language. The morning after his stroke, I packed Gus up and I went back. Me to be the proactive therapist/grandchild and Gus to be adorable and make the nurses and hospital therapists less annoyed with me. When we got there it was quiet and he was still drowsy and I said “Well, what should we start working on?” He said, “I want to remember everyone’s names.” He didn’t have to tell me who “everyone” was. I knew who his “everyone” was. The one thing he wanted more than anything was to remember the names of his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren.
That morning I had walked in with word cards, and memory recall activities, and category papers. But of course, even the day after suffering a major stroke, Grandpa is teaching me life lessons. Even though I pour hours of time and buckets of thought into what I target in a therapy session, I had neglected to look at what motivates patients and families. But don’t you worry, my Grandpa reminded me. Knowing the names of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren was what motivated him. Not the similarities and differences between a chair and a couch. Within hours “everyone” had brought in pictures. And those pictures turned into the word cards, memory recall activities, and category papers. My Grandma Marilyn, my parents, my aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins all climbed on board. Not just because they are all amazing, but because his drive motivated them, too.
My Grandpa didn’t quit there. He never stopped. He worked and worked and worked. He asked for help and homework. And he always did it. I would show up unannounced and he would be sitting in his chair looking at pictures of people and places, quizing himself on the “who,” “what,” and “where” of it all. He is back to being his awesome self. Playing baseball and swords.
I was so blessed to be a part of Grandpa’s recovery. To be reminded that we all have something we love, something that motivates us, something that is worth working really hard for. That thing that motivates us is what gets people better, it’s what drives us to be our best us.
Thank you for never stop teaching me, Grandpa. And Happy Birthday. We love you!
And for all the Schafer Family reading this…Come on! How could I not be his favorite? I mean, really! (I love you guys!)
Yeah Grandpa, I know, I know, we are ALL your favorite. (wink wink)