Prayer and Chocolate
I can’t remember when Grandpa taught us to pray but I remember as early as three or four years old going into Grandpa’s room for bedtime prayers. Of all the bedtime rigamarole this was my favorite. Grandpa was always in his chair with a book. We knew the routine. We got down on our knees without a word and bowed our heads. There was a short breath before Grandpa would prompt us, “Our Father,…” and joining in the three of us prayed the sing-song prayer every night.
This was followed by specific prayers, God bless mom and dad, God bless Grandpa, God bless… If someone was sick we prayed a special prayer for them to recover. If we knew of someone going through some hardship or difficulty we prayed. When the prayers were finished and the Amen was said we perched upright for our reward. One square of Hershey’s chocolate from Grandpa’s big block was rationed out. One for Steve and one for me. Plain or peanut? Grandpa had both.
Chocolate in hand we toddled off to our room and climb into bed. After a few minutes Grandpa would come in and sit on the floor between our beds. One hand on my bed, one on Steve’s, Grandpa would give each a gentle bounce as he sang special bedtime songs. The cookie train song was always a favorite. Sometimes Grandpa would read us a story first and then we would get songs. But mostly I just remember nodding off to Smile Awhile, an old war tune, or America the Beautiful. When I look back on the rich deposit my Grandfather invested in my life I am truly grateful. The wealth is vastly incalculable.
These daily deposits from Grandpa ended when he moved back to the city a few years later. My parents had divorced and life had shifted for us all. But Grandpa didn’t abandon us entirely. Every Monday night after work Grandpa made the trek out to the suburbs to take us out for burgers and ice cream. My sister Cathy would eventually accompany us once she got old enough. But for a long time it was me, Steve and Grandpa. In the summer months Grandpa would lead us on bikes to the trail through the Forest Preserves that followed the Salt Creek. The bike trail ended at Mannheim Road in Westchester. And a couple of blocks from the exit was a Tastee Freeze where I got a pizza burger and a vanilla shake. Or if Grandpa was in the mood for peach melba we would head over to the Baskin Robbins for a scoop.
Long before Gary Chapman wrote about the five love languages Grandpa expressed love through acts of service, words of affirmation, gifts, touch and quality time. We were always greeted with a hug. He was certainly not a perfect man but he made an effort to express love in multiple ways. He always let you know he believed you could do anything. And no matter how fumbling or awkward the attempt, Grandpa would be there to give shouts of encouragement. From the squares of chocolate to left over flowers from his deliveries to monetary endowments later in life, Grandpa gave whatever he had. He taught me by example to freely give. Beyond the Dalet, as well as, Thru the dalet and Dalet, Beyond the Shadow Side is dedicated to his memory.
From Grandpa I learned how to give and receive love. Grandpa loved me. And I loved Grandpa. I’ve heard it said that it is through our parents that we get our first impressions of God, albeit subconsciously and inadvertently. For me it was Grandpa. Grandpa loved me because I was his. He celebrated who I was and encouraged me to always be my authentic self.
Thank you, Grandpa for introducing me to your friend, Jesus. I love you and miss you every day.