I Believe It’s Never Too Late To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks
Fifty years is a long time to be miserable. Fifty years is a long time to just chalk up to a bad choice. I remember Sunday dinners at my Grandparents’ house. I never liked those days much. I remember sitting on that big, old couch that smelled like “old people.” I would sit quietly and watch my family. I remember my Grandpa’s sarcastic tone that would nip at my Grandma’s heels as she ran around taking care of everything. I remember the looks of frustration that would fly back and forth between my parents. I remember the apologetic looks that the giant clock behind the couch would secretly give me because it couldn’t count the minutes any faster. Then Grandma would come in the room and tell everyone that supper was ready. We would all sit down to a big meal and eat. No one would say much, we’d all just try to keep our mouths full and swallow the awkward silence. Then it was back to my couch. I felt swallowed up by that old couch. I wished they would get a new one. I just wished that something would change. But nothing ever did. Not the couch, not the carpet, not the bowl of olives that Grandma always set out when we visited, and certainly not the attitudes or the judgments. He was angry. At who, I’ll never be sure. Maybe God, the army, his parents, his choices? The polio not only took away my Grandpa’s ability to walk, it took away his ability to love. He had let it consume him, body and soul. My Grandma just dealt. She dealt with never-ending housework and old couches. She dealt with her aging body and many health problems. She dealt with a loveless marriage and the fact that hope is only for “silly dreamers.”
There was, however, always one thing I could talk to my Grandpa about – my love for animals. He would sit and talk to me about the most recent Discovery Channel shows he had watched. And every now and then he would admit that animals really are pretty amazing. On one of our many visits to my Grandparents’ house, I noticed a small change. As I was giving Grandpa his hello hug, I noticed something different. It wasn’t a new couch, or fresh paint, but the whole room felt brighter. I looked at my Grandpa closer, and realized that a small smile sat on his lips which ever so slightly made his eyebrows turn to a softer furrow. He pointed out the window towards the palm tree that stood in their front yard. He told me how he had found a baby pigeon that had fallen from its nest, and that just as he was about to kill it, he remembered our animal talks and how much love I had for them. He was in a different world as he told me his heroic tale of how he took the bird inside, put it in a small shoebox, and kept it warm and fed until it was strong enough to be free. He spoke like he was back in the army and had just saved a fellow soldier. That little pigeon brought life back into my Grandpa. Of course he finished his story with, “I don’t know what I was thinking rescuing that damn baby pigeon. It’s just going to thank me by crapping on our house.” But he still had a twinkle in his eye. I had inspired my Grandpa to save a life without even knowing. I believe that love can change someone’s heart even after fifty years!
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