Grandma’s Empty Story Chair

Grandma's Empty Story ChairMy favorite chair sits empty today, crowded in by boxes of stuff I collected over the years. Some of it will see its demise in the dumpster out back, while the more contemporary pieces will be given a home thanks to a local mission or charity.

When I left this world, I was freed from the days I spent in darkness. Having perfect sight again makes this new life extraordinary. My skin is silky smooth and my new body has no stretch marks from the excess weight I once carried on earth. I wish my great grandkids could see me this way.

I can barely remember the fear in the little one’s eyes as she reached out to touch my aged, wrinkled skin. The discoloration from medication gave my arm an eerie and deathly bluish shade. The texture alone was enough to startle any three year old, but I was glad she screwed her courage to the sticking place.

My heart raced with joy when her soft fingers touched my fragile skin. Caution was quickly voiced from my kids for my skin could be too easily torn—but I needed my great granddaughter’s touch regardless of the risk. Her loving, yet hesitant touch, gently slipped away and I fell back into my distant prison of old age. Always feeling alive, while trapped in a decaying body that no longer responded as I willed.

Now, glancing at my empty chair brings a subtle note of joy. I was glad for the opportunities I had, although few, to share stories from a time long ago. My son listened attentively to each tale and responded with questions that taxed my memory, as he searched for enough detail to remember my younger years going forward.

My daughter was also eager to learn more about my life including the love interest I had before meeting her father. She was the most empathetic person that listened to my stories and understood the value of each object I amassed over the years. The symbols were reminiscent of several life-impacting stories that I lived out and my daughter could retell most of them just by looking at the piece collected.

But today the boxes are being tossed because the grandkids and great grandkids see no value in any of it. My stories are fading as each representation rusts away or turns to dust. My empty story chair will soon be pitched, as its worn-torn look no longer matches the decorative styles of the day. And with it, I’m afraid family members will no longer cherish my remarkable stories.

Oh, my daughter will continue to share several stories, and my son will even share a few, too. But even he will one day contemplate the waning interest by his children and their kids. His time will become finite and he will have to choose between sharing one of my wonderful stories or making sure his grandkids listen to one of his. I would never wish that frustration on him.

Instead, if I could encourage him right now, I’d say…

Grandma’s story chair is empty and the artifacts surrounding it no longer speak of the thrilling life I led, so say goodbye to me once again, not fearing that I’ll permanently fade from your memories, and speak into the lives of your kids, grandkids and their kids. For you are of great value to me and I want your stories to resound with compassion and wisdom that will bless our family for generations to come.

NOTE: The sketch illustration was created by CJ in an attempt to make his story feel real. While not an illustration artist, CJ used his Bamboo drawing tablet to sketch elements from his mother’s living room.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

A Father’s Impact

A Fathers ImpactIt’s been a month since my mother passed away. Reflecting on her life is still a daily occurrence for me. Memories are triggered by every item of hers I’ve had to go through when determining its future. Stacks of photos slow me down the most, as I relive the moments that I participated in.

Few photos exist of her father. He died when mom was too young. One person told me she was 14 and another said 9. Both ages sadden me.

My dad died when I was 19. His death made a lasting impact on me. It forever changed the direction of my life. My mom must have had a similar experience, but with a more harsh reality being raised by a single mom in the early 1900’s. I can’t help but wonder how important a dad is to have impacted his family while present and in death.

Tim Ritchey is a father and a dear friend that I admire. During this time of reflection, he posted a note on Facebook that brought a warm smile to my face and trepidation to my soul. He posted…

Fatherhood Challenge Dare:
I was nominated to publish a pic that makes me feel happy to be a father (so I did 19) I am going to tag men that i feel are fabulous fathers. If you are one of them awesome dads, copy the text and paste this to your wall along with picture and tag other fathers. THIS SHOULD NOT TAKE ALL DAY FELLAS!!!!!!!! If I chose you, I chose an outstanding human being, and I am pleased to call u my friend.

I was honored when he called me an “outstanding human being” and “I am pleased to call u my friend.” Coming from a man that quickly earns respect from everyone he meets was a great pat on the back. I felt affirmed.

The trepidation that soon flowed through my bones was not so pleasant. Pictures popped into my head that would work well for a response, but they were all in storage. Having no pictures to express how happy I was to be a father made me question what kind of a father I had been.

I knew what kind of a son I had been because my dad spoke truthfully to mom over the years. Many hints for improvement and compliments of success made it to my ears. I was very thankful to hear my mom tell me just two weeks before my dad died how proud he was of me and how much fun he had when I was around. Dad even loved my work ethic and all the help I gave him fixing up the small cottage we enjoyed.

A few months ago I saw the impact my ex-father-in-law had on my kids. I also remembered all he meant to me, as he was in my life longer than my dad. Yet, my dad’s impact was still greater. It took me years to get past his death because of the values he instilled in me. Not to mention all those times when he was there for me.

I’ll never forget the time I was walking around in a cloud of amazement because of Kim Jones. We were in fourth grade and she was the most fun and beautiful girl in school. We played dodge ball together, built forts in the woods next to school, and played house.

One day when my dad was getting dressed for work, I came into his bedroom to chat about something very personal. I shared how there was a constant stirring inside my belly whenever I thought about Kim. He told me it was because she was a really important friend and made me happy. I agreed.

I asked, with a wide-open vulnerable heart, if I should “go steady” with her. Dad put me at ease by saying that going steady was for people in high school. But he also pointed out that since she was important to me, I could signify it by getting her a friendship ring.

With my dad’s blessings I went to the jewelers and bought a really cool friendship ring. It was really expensive (I think it cost about $8 back then), but was worth the ability to express my feelings through the gift. Kim loved it and said she’d always treasure it. Two weeks later her dad was transferred and she moved away.

I’ll never forget how my dad protected my feelings.

But what about me as a father?

I never had the opportunity to tell my dad what a great job he did in guiding me through that highly vulnerable and emotional time. Nor did I know if I had participated in such a powerful moment when I did the right thing for my kids. The only thing I had confidence in was how well my kids turned out.

My kids are godly, intelligent, self-aware, worthy of respect, leaders, great public speakers, considerate, good listeners, creative, and know how to share great stories. But does that mean the impact I made as a father was a good one?

I love my kids even on those days when they don’t like me. I’ve made lots of mistakes in parenting, but I’ve also seen great results from the qualities I’ve instilled that help them in life. But does the sum of averages adorn me with a ribbon for being a good father over all?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what’s engraved on my tombstone. In the meantime, I’m working hard to figure out how to be an even better grandpa. After all, grandpas make a great impact in their grandkid’s lives too.