Before nap time today, I read “Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel” to my small kids. If you’ve never heard of this classic, it’s about a steam shovel that has grown old and begins to feel useless in a world that is moving and changing. On the last page, I couldn’t even read I was so choked up. Besides the fact that I’m highly emotional today, the story struck a chord with me because of our recent trip to see my grandparents in Connecticut.
My grandpa is 92 and my grandma isn’t too far behind. We drove there knowing that it would be an emotional trip as my grandpa is receiving 24 hour hospice care. Grandpa Bob was doing better than I expected, but was only able to speak one or two sentences before getting winded. He was asleep in his chair for most of our visit, but we sat in the same room, the kids playing at his feet, oblivious of the ninety-two years of life that his withering body represented.
One time when Grandpa woke up, he began to recite the following poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
He could only get through the first paragraph before needing to close his eyes and rest his voice. We looked up the rest of the poem and read it aloud for him. He began to shake his head in agreement when we got to the last paragraph,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
My grandpa was a hard working World War II vet and could resonate with the Village Blacksmith who the poem was about. Grandpa’s eyes had a dim light that was fading still and looking into his eyes was like watching a beautiful sunset. I told him thank you as many times as I could. It was a really special visit.