The still darkness. A quiet house except for the constant tick of the grandfather clock that lulled me to deep sleep. I’d be stretched out on the couch and feel a nudge. “You ready partner?” I was so sleepy most of those mornings that all I could muster was a nod as I tried to not look tired. The last thing I wanted was him thinking I couldn’t hack the early chores. My eyes could barely read the clock but it read somewhere around 5 a.m. Grandpa would get up early everyday to go feed the horses and clean the stalls if need be. I’d ask for him to wake me because it would just be the two of us for that hour or so. I’d follow in his literal tracks, listening to instructions as best I could.
“Go fill the water bucket . . .” When filled them, I had to drag them along the ground, water sloshing everywhere, because they were just too dang heavy for me to carry. Grabbing some hay was the easy part. I’d fling it through the stall bars all the way down the barn. The horses would be snorting and waving their heads as if to say thanks. I loved the smell in all it’s odorous glory. It smelled like tough cowboys to me.
“Go on in and give her some grain . . .” Grandpa took care of about 40 Arabian horses if my memory serves me. They would buy/sell and show them. One of the beauties won 1st place in the national show. GG Jabask was his name. A spirited and immense beauty! I had great respect for their power. Going into the stalls when it was dark had me holding my breath that I wouldn’t get a kick in the chest. Grandpa didn’t seem to think it was even in the realm of possibility though. He had full confidence I would walk out just like I went in. I was no older than 7 years at the time but he treated me like I was fully capable of doing what he did whether I believed it or not.
I was his true partner. . . and I reveled in that role. He was as close to a cowboy as I knew. I couldn’t get enough of his presence. He’d laugh and hug me frequently. We’d eat fried eggs and toast as he told stories about things I didn’t quite understand with my dad and other men around the small kitchen table. He seemed larger than life. I hoped to be just like him one day. I didn’t know the man that was my grandfather, I just knew the legend I thought he was.
As I grew, he always made me feel like I was his partner no matter if we didn’t live close anymore. I’d walk in the door and he’d howl, “Well, well, who is this guy?!?? This good looking son of a gun! Oh man, is it good to see you partner! How ya doin’? You holding the standard of the Scott name?” He’d grab me hard by the shoulders, then pull me close in a big hug. He always smelled the same. Always wearing his big cross that hung low over his white tank top. You would rarely see him in anything else at home when he was relaxing.
Every time I saw him, I felt like that 7 year old boy, no matter if I was in my late teens or early twenty’s. He was still a legend, and I, his partner. As I grew, every time I was about to leave, he’d slap me affectionately before he gave me a big hug. Tears would well up in his eyes and he’d say, as his voice cracked, “Seannie, I sure am proud of you. You know that right? I am so proud of you.” Seeing his tears was the physical sign of his deep love for me. Those words were water to my inner most. Incredibly poignant.
As a 42 year old man, I rode on my tractor today thinking about my grandpa who has been gone for quite few years now. I yearned to wake early and walk the barns with him, to feel his presence and confidence. He died before I had “made” much of myself. I was young and newly married. As the mower buzzed in the background, I so badly wanted him to see the life I had created and to hug my children like he hugged me. To feel like I was his irreplaceable partner again. To feel his embrace and hear the words, “I am so proud of you.” To feel that again even if just for a moment . . .
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Words matter. Moments matter to children. You are so much greater to them than you know you really are. Own that identity. Speak life into them. Be intentional in making those in your life feel like your “partner”, a valued part of your tribe/crew/family. Understand that one day, for better or worse, they’ll reflect on the mundane moments you shared with them as pivotal and formative, holding a gravity you never knew existed at the time.
I love you grandpa! Thanks for bringing me alongside so many years ago. They were invaluable times for me-
Your partner in this life and the next.