The Strong Silent Type
Gramps—a man of few words—a good or bad hmph was indicated only by his inflection. Hmph was a typical response you could expect from him. Unless, of course, HE had something he wanted to say, a lesson he wanted to teach, a point he wanted to make, or simply a story that felt good to him to repeat over and over.
“Hey Gramps- look at my stamp collection for school!”
“Can you fix my doll’s arm?”
“I did well in the spelling bee!”
“Will you take me for a ride on the golf cart?”
“I scored 12 points in basketball!”
“I got my acceptance letter to college.”
“I met a boy. I really like him.”
“I’m getting married!”
“I got a new job.”
“We’re having a baby…”
Grandma usually clapped her hands, repeated it, and shouted joyfully, “DID YOU HEAR THAT DADDY?!”
Gramps answered these types of things with an appropriately inflected "hmph" and it was up to me from there to interpret its meaning. Usually it was one of pride or satisfaction, coupled with a smile. Occasionally, a concerned hmph rumbled from deep inside him, when news was something unsettling that he needed to mull over for a bit.
After Grandma died, Gramps found a familiar vantage point at the octagonal kitchen table. He watched us all from his perch, the upholstered kitchen chair with wheels. He saw the lovely and the ugly things that were the story of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Here a "hmph" there a "hmph" everywhere a "hmph-hmph."
Gramps supplied a type of time warp for us where time stood still during our visits. Sunny D. and chocolates for the little kids were always on hand, as we flew in and flew out, in what must have seemed like a blur to him. On the surface it appeared as though he was out of touch with our pace, perspective and priorities but in his quiet way he was taking it all in.
During one particularly dark valley in my adult life, I felt very alone and very embarrassed at the financial situation in which my husband and I found ourselves treading water. I didn’t want anyone to know. I had always been the good kid, the one who pleased, made them proud, I was the one destined to “be someone” in our family. With those hopes pinned on me how could I now burst their bubble and expose my failure? I was too proud to ask for help or acknowledge our vulnerabilities.
One afternoon, quietly waiting amidst the looming pile of bills, threats and junk mail, was a hand addressed ray of hope. Inside was a note wrapped around a check, in Grandpa’s script it read simply, “Love to all from Florida. I can afford this. I want you to have this and do what you need to do- pay bills, have some fun, whatever. Buy the kids some Sunny D. and Chocolates from Papa.”
With teary eyes, my honest reaction was an audible "hmph." I didn’t see that coming. No groveling, no begging, no strings attached. He just wanted to help.
It brings to mind the scripture from Matthew 11:28, where Christ implores us to come to Him, all who are weary and heavy burdened and HE will give us rest. Our Father longs to help us, and take our burden, he isn’t disappointed that we couldn’t carry it all on our own. He is disappointed when we try to do it alone and fail to ask for His help. Thank you Gramps for your quiet "hmph" of help, which humbled my heart, and preserved my pride, simultaneously.
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