John Robert Cumpston. To those who know him at a distance he is John. To his wife, family, and close friends he is Bob. To his children he is Dad. And to me… he’s my Grandpa.
I am unabashedly, unashamedly, undeniably a Grandpa’s girl.
It hasn’t always been that way, though, as a child I was usually afraid of him and making him mad, not that he was around enough for that to really happen. Usually about the time we would be making our way to my grandparents’ house, he’d be headed off to one of the local bars. If he was there, we were all pretty careful not to do or say anything that might upset him. I remember one Father’s Day when we arrived at their house he was reclining in his lawn chair very much asleep. As I was getting out of the car I was instructed to give him his card and a hug. The thought terrified me, not because I feared he’d hurt me but because he wasn’t easily approachable, so I took what seemed to me to be the easy way out. I laid the card on his chest and instead of hugging him I walked behind his chair and kissed the middle of his balding head.
I was in fourth grade when my grandparents divorced. After that I saw my grandfather even less than I had before. Then gradually he started appearing at family gatherings. I’d hear that he and my grandmother were spending time together. Once, my brother and I even got to accompany them on a date to Sea World (talk about weird!). It seems he realized that his life was incomplete without his wife. As he continued to try to win her back, he realized that wasn’t all his life was missing. He began attending church with my grandmother and in one service he surrendered his life to Christ.
John Robert Cumpston became a new man.
Different members of the family all point to different events that prove to them how much he has changed. I think the one that stands out most to me happened during one visit to my grandparents’ home shortly after they had gotten remarried. (Attending your grandparents’ wedding ceremony is another strange experience!) When I walked through the door, he looked at me and said, “There’s the first woman president of the
!” (Maybe that’s why he wasn’t much of a Hillary fan?) United States
I had no plans to run one-day run for president (and still don’t), but to receive that kind of affirmation - at a time when I was beginning to realize that my other grandfather was not the man I thought he was and both of my grandmothers were always trying to “fix” me – from a man who rarely bothered to notice me, meant more than he could ever know.
Several years later, I was in need of a larger bookcase, so I asked him if he would make me one. Not long before my next birthday, we arrived home to find not only a bookcase but a matching shelf and mirror sitting on the back porch. I was thrilled and quickly filled it with books. It now sits in my apartment along with two others and a large hutch. (He once promised me a nicer hutch when I got married, but I think he got tired of having it sit around and gave it to someone else.) He has never taken the “Love Languages” test, but it seems to me that he most easily shows love by doing things and making things for others, so as I look around my little house I feel much loved.
One of the greatest misgivings I have had since moving so far away from my family is that something will happen to any of my family members, but most especially my grandfather, while I am gone. In the past 10-15 years he has been through heart attacks, open-heart surgeries, bypasses, a pacemaker, a defibrillator, colon cancer, diabetes, and eye surgeries. Recently he has been experiencing unexplained broken ribs. At first they thought perhaps it was just age causing brittle bones, but now they are apparently not so sure. On Tuesday, they’ll be testing his bone marrow to rule out any more serious causes.
Between now and hearing the test results, I’ll be worried. I’ll be worried, but not afraid. I will not be afraid because know that those many years ago my grandfather placed his life in the hands of One who loves him far more than I ever can or will.