It was a bright, sunny morning, not unusual for Tucson, Arizona. Ninety percent of the time, mornings were always clear and sunny. The inconvenience of bright and sunny mornings in Arizona is that bright sunny mornings turn into hot sunny days. If you want to do anything outdoors, from walking to watering your lawn, best to do it early.
Grandpa and I were out walking, not unusual for us either. I often took walks with my grandfather. Sometimes our walks had purpose, like walking up to a nearby store. Other times, like that day, we walked just to walk. Grandpa never said much on our walks. In fact, when Grandma shooed him out the door to take walks with the kids, he would often mutter under his breath. But I knew he enjoyed them. I could tell by the broad grin that spread across his face when he thought no one was looking, a smile accentuated by his weather wrinkled face.
We reached a four lane minor artery near the neighborhood park. In a childlike display of affection, I slipped my hand into his hand. When we reached the other side, he let go and I was embarrassed at my childlike action. He probably interpreted my gesture as nervousness over the busy highway and that I needed his hand as a security shield. At ten years old, I was too old to hold hands with my grandpa for such a simple reason as affection. Yet that is what I had meant it to be – a silent gesture that I loved walking with my grandpa. He always called me his little girl. I still regret telling him at one point I was a grown up girl and he needn’t call me that anymore. It took years for both of us to get over that. Now, when he calls me his little girl, I stow it away like a precious diamond nestled among the other treasures of my memory chest.
Walks with Grandpa became more numerous over the years. One day, we walked over five miles to his brother’s house, nestled against the mountains, just to see if we could do it. I was relieved when Uncle Eldon offered us a ride back into town. We walked with Grandma and Grandpa along the hiking trails that crisscrossed the mountain ranges surrounding Tucson. When they moved to Sedona, Arizona, we would walk several miles to eat lunch at a local restaurant. After such a strenuous walk, I wondered why Grandma still fussed at Grandpa’s food selections. In their late sixties, they walked with my sister and cousins down the Grand Canyon, a walk I regreted I would never have with them because they, like us, were growing older.
The walks became more symbolic as Grandpa journeyed with us through the important moments of our lives. Grandpa offered to drive both my sister and me at separate times to bible college, hundreds of miles away. Not yet a believer, Grandpa let us know in no uncertain terms, that he thought we were wasting our time. However, if that’s what we wanted to do, he would make sure we got there and got settled well. It seemed only natural that Grandpa would be the one who walked me down the aisle when I met my husband to be at the nuptial altar. I dare think he was as nervous as I was!
My last memory of my grandmother was seeing her and Grandpa turn from their goodbyes at our rented car to walk hand in hand along the sidewalk surrounding their retirement building. After age 80, it no longer mattered who saw you hold hands or kiss or say “I love you.” Another poignant moment came when Grandpa, age 85, walked anther aisle to take the minister’s hand and acknowledge his desire to make Jesus Lord of his life.
My grandfather is now taking another walk, a journey on which we cannot go with him but we will surely follow him someday. At 96, as he battles congestive heart failure, he is walking toward the end of his life and we all know, without saying much, that the end of that walk is drawing near when he will reach the throne of Almighty God and take his Savior’s hand.
Grandparents can have a powerful influence on their grandchildren. When the world is topsy-turvy with economic crisis, family disintegration and the fear of terrorism, a grandparent can be the security a child needs. Sometimes, all it takes is to be there and walk with your grandchildren – just as Grandpa walked with me. If you are a believer in Christ, you have a crucial opportunity to let your grandchild walk that faith journey with you. As you walk, you can demonstrate to them how to walk with the Savior.