Granddaddy’s eyesight was in decline by the time I was born. Maybe it had something to do with the kerosene lantern he read by in his early years. Despite his eighth-grade education, Granddaddy loved books before electricity arrived in his shack. His Bible and dictionary were tattered and worn from decades of use.
Because I was born late into my parent’s marriage, my granddaddy always seemed old to me. I remember sitting at our antique oak table, watching him scoop sugar into his tea. His teaspoon shakily neared the aluminum tumbler three times, and three times Granddaddy poured sugar directly onto the table. My mother scolded me for not letting him know he was missing his glass. But I loved Granddaddy and didn’t want to embarrass him. I wouldn’t have corrected him if he wanted to dump the entire sugar bowl onto the floral oilcloth.
When I brought fifteen extra pounds home from college, I especially looked forward to visiting my granddaddy. Because of his dimming vision, he couldn’t give me the “you’ve-packed-on-the-pounds-look” like everyone else did. Yet, something about backlighting and his loving embrace found me out. “See, you have been eatin’ good,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
The more I understood Granddaddy, the more I loved him.
He was a man whose foresight of youth had seen the beauty of a young widow and wooed her with handwritten prose to become his wife. One of my favorite treasures is his fragile love letter to her, dated 1907. My grandparents lived together for almost seventy years, giving their seven children and ten grandchildren a living example of steadfast faithfulness.
He was a man whose hindsight made him a ninety-seven-year-old celebrity in my hometown. “I’ve been here since the sun was about the size of a quarter, and there wasn’t any moon,” he loved to say. Granddaddy stayed young with homespun humor and a quick wit. “If it wasn’t for my eyes, I’d pass for twenty-five,” he often quipped.
He was a man whose insight saw the joy of capturing the moment, including one memorable joy ride I shared with him across a furrowed field. Smelling of snuff and peppermint, Granddaddy seemed unconcerned that he couldn’t see the turnrow. His Dodge push-button truck bumped and jostled until we both laughed out loud.
My granddaddy gave me broad shoulders to stand on and see the world. He taught me that despite failing eyesight, one can look at unseen things and truly enjoy life. As I look back upon his past, I find a pathway for my future and an avenue to hope for what my physical eyes can’t see. I discern a man whose vision encouraged coming generations to boldly approach the invisible and glimpse peace.
Maybe my granddaddy wasn’t so blind after all.