I saw him carrying an armful of packages. They were giftwrapped, stacked like a miniature pyramid.
He was trying to open the door with his foot.
“Hold on,” I said. “Let me get the door for you.”
He stepped backward and thanked me.
Then he slipped on wet tile. Thankfully, he did not fall. He caught himself by using me for balance, but dropped all his packages in the process. The gifts survived without sustaining any major injuries. And so did he.
That’s when I realized I knew this man.
We used to go to church together. We sang in the Baptist choir, once upon a time. He was a tenor. I sang bass.
Tenors and basses are vicious enemies from birth. The two groups have a longstanding feud. This dates back to the Revolutionary War, when American Colonies fought for independence against Great Britain, and also against Britain’s bloodthirsty allies, the Three Tenors.
Our choir was god-awful. During our choir practices, we basses would blame the elderly tenor section for our less than optimal sound. Things often got ugly.
“Hey!” one of the basses would yell. “Adjust your hearing aids, old farts! You’re on the wrong page!”
“Why don’t you kiss my big, hairy treble clef!” a tenor would holler.
“You first, Grandpa Walton!”
“Aw, your mother’s Episcopalian!”
And a brawl would break out. The altos would be forced to break up the fight with fire hoses and horsewhips.
Being a Baptist can be fun.
Anyway, I helped him carry his gifts to his car, even though we are sworn enemies.
I learned a little about him, too. He is seventy-four. He’s in very good shape, he still sings in the choir. These gifts are for his granddaughter.
The girl is twelve. Her parents got divorced last year. She’s been caught in the horrible crossfire that accompanies such things.
Anxiety has taken its toll on her. She developed an autoimmune disease, and diabetes, and—this is a big “and”— her nine-year-old dog just died.
“She’s a mess,” he said. “And her parents are so hellbent on hating each other, I’m afraid they’re losing her.”
She’s been sick most of this year. She has been depressed, too. And it’s Granddaddy to the rescue.
“I just wanna make her life happy,” he went on. “That’s my job, you know. She’s all I care about.”
This man is no stranger to hard living. He’s been a bachelor for a few years ever since his wife died.
I remember when this happened. She was a devout soprano who smiled a lot.
She was sweet like buckwheat honey, a superb cook, and she always gave good hugs. She smoked cigarettes in secret, everyone in the choir could smell them on her. This, among other things, made her endearing.
I’ve never seen a memorial so big. People lined up out the door to remember her. And I’ll never forget how sad he looked that day.
I shook his hand in the visitation line. He looked like he’d cried himself into severe dehydration.
Even so, he didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. He’s too strong for that. He stays busy piddling in his shed, he uses his riding mower twice per week, he fixes broken chairs, he cleans his own house, he sings in the choir with all his evil little tenor toadies.
Last week, he built a wood fence. For a dog.
“I bought her a new Labrador, and he needs a place where he can just run, you know?”
The fence took him a long time. He worked on it every day. He showed me pictures of the project on his phone. Then, he showed me pictures of the new dog. And photos of his granddaughter.
“I’ve still got work to do in this life,” he says. “Besides, I’m sick of eating dinner alone. I don’t know who’s more excited about her coming, me or her.”
So this weekend, his favorite grandchild will be arriving. She will move into the old spare bedroom. They will enjoy the pleasure of one another’s company. He will make her his princess.
And on Christmas morning, it will be just the two of them, and one dog. And this is why he bought so many gifts today.
In the boxes are gadgets, gizmos, a new phone, a new laptop, and new everything.
“My grandbaby needs me,” he said. “I’m gonna make it the best Christmas she ever had.”
There’s no doubt about it.
“But the truth is,” he went on, “I need that little girl more than she could ever need an old man like me.”
Well, I don’t know about all that.
But then, you can’t trust a word this man says. After all, he is a tenor.
Janie F. - December 16, 2018 7:08 am
Piddling in his shed. I love that phrase, it sure says a lot about a man Sean. Thank God for grandpa’s like this. My brother and his wife are raising their three year old granddaughter. My brother will be 77 when that child turns 18. They are determined to see to it that she has a good life. I admire them more than I can express but I can’t imagine them not doing this. Thank you for this touching story.
Estelle S Davis - December 16, 2018 8:02 am
May this man have many more years and may He and his granddaughter go ever closer. May her parents keep her out of their war. May they at least be civil for their daughter’s sake.
Have a very happy Christmas yourself, your wife and your fur babies. They deserve special treats and belly rubs for all the joy they give.
Kelly - December 16, 2018 9:57 am
What a wonderful Grandfather. His granddaughter is so blessed to have him. His special gift of a Labrador puppy may be the thing that keeps her whole during this crazy time with her parents. As we all know, dogs have that secret spirit that is a balm to our troubled souls. Merry Christmas to Grandpa and his granddaughter.?
ponder304 - December 16, 2018 11:15 am
The old bass “ain’t” so bad either. The greatest of these is love……
Leslie in NC - December 16, 2018 11:16 am
Beautiful Christmas story! I lost all my grandparents when I was very young. This sweet girl is so blessed to have a grandfather who dotes on her and loves her through such a trying time in her life. And he is blessed as well.
Barbara Pope - December 16, 2018 12:44 pm
I’m married to a tenor so I totally get it.
Looks like your tenor is still a star–shining brighter than ever this Christmas!
Cathi - December 16, 2018 1:00 pm
Grandaddies & dogs…this 12 year old is gonna have quite the Christmas.
Jan - December 16, 2018 1:26 pm
Beautiful story …. wishing them both the best Christmas ever!!!
Terri C Boykin - December 16, 2018 1:27 pm
I’ll be praying for this pair. Love you much Sean.
Susan Self - December 16, 2018 1:44 pm
I started out thinking that my granddaughter needed her old GiGi. Which she does. But old GiGi couldn’t survive for long without her in my life. I need her sweetness, her endless questions and her sweet pure heart to keep me loving this world. And God’s love. And you Sean for giving me my morning heart vitamin. Thank you.
karen peters - December 16, 2018 2:14 pm
I see so many grandparents taking on the role of parent again, and it’s hard. I pray for this gentleman’s continued good health and kind spirit.
Connie Havard Ryland - December 16, 2018 2:36 pm
Grandparent to the rescue. I see it every day; I lived it. I needed that baby girl more than she needed me, but we’ve done okay with each other. She’s in college, smart and beautiful and planning a wedding. I hate the circumstances that put her in that position but I have never regretted one second of our life. She is the joy of my life and keeps me going every day. I wish this grandpa and his princess all the happiness life holds. This was a good one, Sean. Love and hugs.
Patricia A Schmaltz - December 16, 2018 3:06 pm
So Sweet! Thank you for warming my heart and a quick tear. I’m a lapsed Soprano, turned Alto (??) but appreciate it all the same.
Doug Leins - December 16, 2018 8:34 pm
Tenors get all the good notes. Basses get roots, fiths and an occasional leading tone. That’s no way to live your life. 🙂
Cathy Moss - December 16, 2018 9:01 pm
Lucky little girl. There is nothing like a grandads unconditional love. I had two and still miss both of them. The great thing abt this story is that he needs her as much as she needs him. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little. Dionne Warwick sang it is still a favorite of mine. You are spreading that love Sean. Merry Christmas??❤️
Shelton A. - December 16, 2018 9:26 pm
Beautiful story…yea Grandpa
Edna B. - December 17, 2018 12:21 am
I’m catching up on the last couple of posts. Gosh, I missed your stories! This little girl is so very lucky to have her grandpa. I wish them both a joyous Christ mas, and their puppy too. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.
Carol - December 17, 2018 12:42 am
I had a granddaddy like that!!
Oh what a lucky young lady! She’ll have memories one day that will fill her heart with love and her eyes with tears!!
Merry Christmas to them and you!
Jennifer Jones - December 17, 2018 1:14 am
So endearing. A lesson for us all!
Pamela McEachern - December 17, 2018 2:47 am
My GrandDaddy was my partner in crime, I lost him when I was eight and to this day have never known anyone that is the man he was. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was five and he was my world! Thank you for the touching memories.
Peace and Love from Birmingham
that's jack - December 17, 2018 5:21 am
Ahhhhh, the musical mean streak!! Hoping the best for grand daddy and Granddaughter. both deserve it.
Susan - December 17, 2018 5:47 pm
My granddaddy loved me like that. I miss him.
Dell - December 17, 2018 8:41 pm
You made me cry….
Norman J. Nabhan - December 18, 2018 2:11 pm
I’m not much of a reader, but I couldn’t lay this down. It was heartwarming. I identify with it.
Merry Christmas folks…