My grandfather has never been an affectionate man. I suppose this may be typical for men of his generation, but nevertheless, he has always been more of a handshaker than a hugger. I have typically shaken that hand and pulled him into a hug since I am just the opposite… more of a hugger than a handshaker.
Back in the summer of 1994, I worked for the Alabama Baptist State Convention. I traveled around the state with a guy named Mike; he was a worship leader, and I was the speaker for a series of revivals all over the state. We worked with several small and medium sized churches from one end of Alabama to another. One of those churches was Little River Baptist Church in Chrysler, Alabama. Chrysler is located due south of Uriah, Alabama, which means it is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. However, it is within driving distance of Atmore, where my grandfather lives.
That summer, my grandmother was still alive, though just barely. She was completely bedridden with Parkinson’s and dementia. Parkinson’s was destroying her body, and dementia was ravaging her mind. Frankly, I am not sure she even knew who she was during those eight years she spent in the back bedroom, much less who we were. God used that eight years to transform my grandfather. He went from being a particularly gruff man to an incredibly tender caregiver who refused to even consider a nursing home as long as he was able to care for her at home. He didn’t get out much during that time.
But he did make plans to come to Little River Baptist Church to hear me speak. In fact, he even drove over during the day before coming over that night: he wanted to make sure that he knew how to find the church. He came in right after the service began, so I didn’t get a chance to speak to him. I did acknowledge him before I spoke by introducing him to those in attendance that night.
After the service, the members of the church were very friendly as they welcomed my grandfather and told him how they had enjoyed having me there that week. In fact, I had to wait my turn to get to speak to him. As I approached him, I was mindful of his less than affectionate nature, and I just stuck out my hand to shake his.
He took my hand in his, and for the first time, he pulled me into a hug. He told me how much he had enjoyed the service and how proud he was of me. His face was beaming that night, and I will never forget the pride in his eyes or the way he hugged me.
Grandaddy is not doing well. We have been noticing his mental decline over the past months, and we know that he is now experiencing Alzheimer’s firsthand. Two weeks ago, he had surgery on his feet and was kept in the hospital in Atmore for observation and antibiotics by IV. While there, his lungs began to fill with fluid, and he experienced congestive heart failure. A doctor there was able to revive him, and he was airlifted down to Mobile. He was in ICU for a week and half, and only two days ago was placed into a regular room. He has been stabilized, and his lungs and heart seem to be functioning better. In fact, they are now looking at transferring him back to Atmore.
Unfortunately, many times when an Alzheimer’s patient experiences a physical problem like this, it speeds up the mental decline. Thus far, it seems like that might be the case. We are hoping that part of the confusion might be from the drug-induced coma he was in for over a week, but we just don’t know. Only time will tell.
If you pray, keep him in your prayers.