Perfection… Was Grandfather a perfect man? Obviously this is an unfair question, but just how close was he? I can jog my memory and remember about him a few of the things that some might say made him imperfect. I remember that he occasionally belched at the table during Sunday dinner, which always prompted Grandmother to make him give each of his grandchildren a quarter. Once in a while he might slip up and the dialogue in his company would become slightly PG-13, which also earned the grandkids a quarter. He took the “blame the dog” excuse one step further, and was in fact known to “blame the nearest grandchild” once in a while. Sometimes he would drag Grandmother across town spending two or three extra dollars in gas to save 25 cents on a gallon of milk or a quart of oil. And Heaven help the waitress that tried to refuse one of his coupons, because there would be a reckoning. It’s funny how those little idiosyncrasies about a person that are sometimes kind of irritating at the time, are nothing but fond memories when that person is gone.
On a more reverent note, if I wanted to share my best childhood memories of my Grandfather, I would have to write a complete autobiography simply because he was such a huge part of my life that no certain memory can be taken individually. There are literally hundreds of things that could fall into the column of “reasons why my Grandfather was perfect”. I won’t list them all, since every member of this family knows exactly where I’m coming from.
But the thing that truly sticks with me about Grandfather is that no matter where we were in life, or what we thought of him, or what we did, he always believed that We were perfect. Although this may be a stereotypical way for grandparents to feel about their grandkids, with him it was different. There was such a sincerity and deep love and devotion that came with it. It was not a denial, because I know there were times where he disagreed with our decisions or paths, but at the end of the day, you would never question how highly he thought of you, whether he was right or not. His love and family devotion was so very contagious and will forever be his legacy.
I am certain that I will undoubtedly spend the rest of my life seeing things that make think of him such as crosswords, scrabble games, jeopardy, and well, almost anything really. But the thing that will most assuredly be in my heart forever is that not a second ever went by where I felt anything but pure, unequaled, and undying love from him. So for that reason, I can easily say that he may not have been a perfect man, but he was 100% without question a PERFECT Grandfather; and his cheerful demeanor will be sorely missed, yet used as an example and an inspiration for all of us that were blessed by his time with us.
We were so fortunate to grow up with people who loved us unconditionally. More than that, they loved without any judgment, without any disappointment and without ever asking for more than our love in turn. Our grandparents were the epitome of such love. They were ever-present and ever-available, genuinely interested in us… our silly whims, our victories and failures, and our daily happiness. Their presence in our life brought us such joy and consistency. They made us each feel as if we were the most important thing in their lives. We are left with such grief in their absence. It’s hard to imagine not receiving the daily phone calls, hearing the loving expressions that have become so familiar, “You look beautiful today” – (over the phone! J ) EVERY day! J “Watch your drivin.’” “It’s a beautiful day.” “Look at the colors on the trees… the forsythias blooming…”
Grandmother and Grandfather created and supported a little network of family that grew to love and support them in return. Grandfather became a member of our immediate family after Grandmother died. We focused on trying to distract him from his grief and that effort helped us to be distracted from our own. He was such a blessing to us- a great fan of the children, a fun presence in our daily lives and a constant source of care and concern. I am so grateful for the relationship my children were able to forge with him during that time and for the memories they will have forever.
Grandmother and Grandfather…to some people those words may sound a little too formal, more like titles rather than names. But for those fortunate enough to know Mae and Wilbert Waterbury, these words captures all of the hidden meaning expressed in other terms like grandma and grandpa, mamaw and papaw, mum mum and pop pop. Grandmother and Grandfather are names that elicit fond memories and feeling loved.
Of course, Wilbert Waterbury had other designations, like Daddy and Willie, but—please pardon the obvious bias—I believe the title “Grandfather” is most suitable for him. While parents are burdened with the numerous responsibilities of training and disciplining children, Grandparents can be freed to love and bless their grandchildren. The power of this unconditional love on a person’s development cannot be overstated. Without a doubt, Grandfather made the most of his three decades as Grandfather. If this were the parable of the talents, then he was the diligent servant that multiplied his Master’s resources. And how did Grandfather demonstrate this unconditional love to his grandchildren? Honestly, it’s difficult to describe. I just remember how his face would light up as if he were excited to see us…like we were something important, how he would cut out newspaper clippings that he wanted to show us and then hold on to them for days until we next met, how he always seemed eager to go by Wal Mart or Kroger to get us something, how he persistently reminded us to get food and drink from the kitchen, how he always laughed at our jokes even when we botched them, how he seemed to prefer playing outside in the cold with us children to being inside and warm with the adults, how he stood outside waving goodbye and flashing the porch light until the car was out of sight, and how he worked diligently to share with us things that he had learned in life, like the importance getting a good education, keeping stable income, and following the law.
Yes, Grandfather shared wisdom with us that he attained from eclectic sources like Will Rogers, Abe Lincoln, Bruce Williams, Ken Jennings, and even Judge Judy. But it wasn’t what Grandfather said or did that influenced us as much as it was how he said and did it. He always seemed to have a curiosity and appreciation for life. The way he hummed and whistled demonstrated his conviction that it was good to be alive. The way he would “knock on wood” demonstrated his hope for tomorrow. The way he treated his family demonstrated his belief that we were his most valuable treasure.
He is no longer here to manage the treasure that God entrusted to him. But the seeds that he planted are growing, and the harvest is multiplying. Others now carry the distinction of being grandparents. Grandfather is now reunited with his first love and also with his Maker. Surely, he has heard the words that we all long to hear, “Well done.”