His hands were age-spot-ridden and weathered by time, and they seemed enormous in comparison to the one-week-old puppy he scooped up from the litter. “Here ya are, Toby.” Granddad stretched out his arms toward Toby, carefully unfolding his hands from around the pup. “Now be real gentle there young man. Don’t wanna break it.”
Toby’s eyes widened as he very slowly reached toward the puppy. He looked up at Granddad to see him warmly smiling back.
“What’ll you name it?” Granddad asked.
Toby smiled and thought for a moment. “Can we call him Walt?” Toby asked.
Granddad looked back at him curiously, “Now why would you want to name him that?”
Toby’s eyes dropped.
Granddad looked at Toby and smiled warmly. “Of course we can call him Walt,”
Granddad agreed. Toby’s eyes sprang back to life again.
Walt and Toby grew up and older--Granddad stayed the same. Another pair could not have portrayed the stereotypical tie between a boy and his dog any better. Walt and Toby did everything together. They’d spend hours of every summer day exploring along the winding country roads that snaked around Granddad’s farm. Winter days were filled with snow and cold, running outside to play, and inside only long enough to warm before going out again. Each weekday Walt met Toby at the door when he got home from school. And they would play until supper, and at supper Walt would beg. After supper Walt would keep Toby company while Toby did his homework. And they would go to bed, and they would get up, and they would do it all again--and life was good. But life is sometimes like the winding country roads, where drivers often cannot see what lies around the bend--another car, a dog, a boy…
“Walt was a good dog,” Granddad said with somber tone.
“He was a great dog!” Toby snapped. A scowl of hurt, confusion and pain gripped his visage.
In Toby’s young, ten-year-old heart, there was not much room to receive words of comfort at a time such as it was. Granddad seemed to know it, too. His eyes welled up a bit as he looked at Toby’s face. Without a word, he simply placed his hand--his old, weathered hand--on Toby’s shoulder, and drew him near. Somehow there was some magic in that moment. Granddad’s loving hand conveyed so very much, and though Toby hurt, he felt a sense of peace in Granddad’s touch.
Time moved on and healed the wounds, as is its job to do. Toby grew to be a man, shaped heavily by the life-lessons he learned while simply watching Granddad day to day. He married a wonderful young woman, named Marcy, who gave him a son. They named him Walter Toby Matthews. Toby could not believe how small and frail a human being could ever be.
“Here you are, Granddad,” Toby said as reached out to place his son into his Granddad’s hands. “Now be real gentle there. Don’t wanna break it,” Toby quipped.
Granddad just smiled back.
“Walter Toby, say hi to great-granddad Walter.”
Toby’s eyes welled up a bit as he watched. Granddad could barely see, but he held his great-grandson close and soaked in as much as his old eyes would let him. He couldn’t hold him very long, so Toby took the baby back, gave him to his mother, and sat back down beside Granddad’s bed.
“Comfortable Granddad?” Toby asked.
Granddad nodded, reached out his hand and took hold of Toby’s hand, and fell asleep. Toby looked at their hands together, until the nurse came in.
“You ok to go now?” the nurse asked.
“Yeah,” Toby replied, “probably ought to make some calls and let the family know he’s gone.”
As he walked down the hospital hall, he thought about his Granddad holding his hand when he passed on. He thought of how it seemed that through the years, Granddad’s hand was with him--instructing, comforting, guiding… And in that moment of delightful reminiscing, he considered the hand of the Heavenly Father, which drew his attention to the lessons taught along the way. The gentle love for a puppy, the comforting hug in time of tragedy, the gift of the last few hours at Granddad’s side; in all of it God’s hand was at work—teaching him how he himself would one day be the teacher of such grand, Grandfatherly things.