I sat with my grandfather while visiting him for Easter. We sat together looking out the bay window. Outside the window, the flower bed my grandmother planted was trying to bloom after this particularly harsh winter. Life was trying to reemerge. A few birds were visiting the bird feeder and doing their spring dance with each other.
My grandfather sat in the rocker that I had always known to be my grandmother's. It is placed in a pretty inconvenient location in the large dining room that is the main thoroughfare in the house, creating a tight jag in the flow of traffic. I remember my grandfather complaining about it being there many years ago. Yet, there it still sits. Years after my grandmother's passing.
And now in it he sat. With whiskey and some old time music playing. He rocked and looked out the window. But the view I saw was not what he was looking at. He was playing a movie in his mind. Memories of the past. Some of those took place out that window, others somewhere else. And then he spoke. And with the words came a tear.
He shared memories. He spoke of his mother. And shared how she was an excellent singer "better than Barbara Streisand," he said sincerely... more than once. He told me that when she was young in Budapest, she worked for a family who had wanted to send her to America to sing. But it never happened. She did come to America, but not to sing. She sang a lot to him and his sisters and brothers. There were a lot of them! Then he shared about how two different couples had wanted to adopt him when he was young. One woman was a teacher. But his mom wouldn't let them.... Another tear. I didn't understand yet what the tears were for. I didn't ask either. Instead I said, "She couldn't let you go, Grandpa. She loved you." I feel that the tears were because he had a regret about how he had reacted to her not letting him go. They had to do with how he treated her about it.
We sat in silence again for a while, looking out the window. Watching the birds. Life returning to the farm. He sipped on his whiskey. And listened to the music. And continued to remember.
"I really wish my sisters and I had sent my mother to the singing contest. She had a beautiful voice. Better than Barbara Streisand," he shared, again with a tear. He continued to explain the details of how they were going to send her to some radio show where there was a singing competition. He didn't explain why they didn't and I didn't ask. That didn't really matter. But I know the tear was about regret. Again.
I sat with him. Listening and looking out the window. And then he actually said "I guess I've wasted my life." With more than one tear.
He shared these stories again, and again, as if he hadn't said them out loud yet. Each time his words becoming more slurred as he drank. They were clearly what was on his mind at the moment. Things he needed to come to terms with as the end of his life was drawing near.
I have never seen my grandfather cry. I remember him constantly on the go, whether it was playing basketball, working the fields or garden or out in his workshop. Always with a teasing joke and smile. But here we sat. Tears quietly coming down as he thought about the truth of his life looking back.
It left an impression on me. I will have tears of regret, I am sure at the end of my life when I look back. But I will try to live my life in a way that honors the truth of me. I think I need to tell him that I am thankful to have been there to share that moment with him. It is humbling to watch someone reconcile their life. A great learning moment.