A Legacy in Tears

An old man of 90 years sits in his chair in the corner of a crowded living room. He’s quiet. Happy. Surrounded by three generations of his blood, the air filled with the screams and playful cheers of his ten great-grandchildren, he just sits. His mouth is closed, lips pursed slightly, but his eyes are glowing. You can almost see his soul smile. A proud husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, you can see the love that he has for those he’s surrounded by. If his legs would allow him to stand on his own, he would be as tall as a building. But, instead, he just sits there. Smiling with his eyes, and rocking gently in his chair.

This is his first visit home in more than two months. A recent illness that laid him up in a hospital bed for two weeks had sapped him of nearly all of his strength but none of his determination. He may appear weak and feeble now, but he’s Samson compared to two months ago. The old man will spend the entire day with loved ones who traveled from all over the country to see him, then head back to the housing center (which he has lived at since his stay in the hospital) to continue his rehabilitation – a testament to the determination and pride that he still possesses.

His 90 years of life have been great to him as he has just recently started to show his age. It’s a wonder to think that just one year prior he was still working three days a week and driving himself everywhere he needed to go. Four summers before, he golfed nearly every week, and even though an old baseball injury prevented him from a full, two-handed follow-through on his swing, that didn’t stop him from beating his grandsons on a 9-hole round. Then, at the annual family picnic, he was in the back yard with his grandchildren playing catch at 60 feet, smiling, laughing, and reminiscing about his storied past. Again, only 9 years prior, at 81 years young, he went to watch his son and grandson play softball in a church league. When he showed up he found out that a few no-shows would cause them to forfeit unless they found one more player. Unable to even think the word “quit,” he grabbed a glove and manned first base.

But now, he just sits. That calm, loving look ever present in his eyes.

The chaos subsides to make way for the sounds of his granddaughter-in-law playing the violin. His eyes immediately well with tears as the beautiful sound hits his ears. For him, the sounds of the strings are accompanied by the warm memories of his past, reminding him of his brother who played and who long ago went home to be with our Lord. The memories of the past 90 years are so thick that the family can almost see them reflected in his tears. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

Across the room, a lovely young lady of 86 years sits in her chair, eyes closed and a smile on her face, nodding her head with the music – his beautiful bride of nearly 70 years. The same memories reflected in the tears of the old man are present in the calm, peaceful nods of the woman. She opens her eyes, looks at the old man with an incredibly tender, loving glance, sees his tears, smiles, closes her eyes again, and continues to nod to the music. The music makes them young again.

The music stops. He sobs. There’s a legacy in those tears.

A few minutes pass and the man’s eyes have dried. The loving glow in his eyes returns as he continues his watchful gaze over his family. He might lack strength, but he’s still as sharp as a tack. His typical humor and quick wit provide smiles and laughter throughout the night. He drinks in every moment.

Despite everyone’s attempts to keep it at bay, the night quickly approaches, and it’s time to take the old man back to the housing center. He is helped to his feet, grabs ahold of his wheeled walker, and begins to delicately put one foot in front of the other. On his way out of the room he stops and says, “Where’s my wife?” She stands up out of her chair and walks towards him. She kisses him sweetly on the lips and says, “I’m right here.” He tells her that he loves her. She kisses him again and says, “I love you, too.” He continues his slow walk towards the door, his wife following closely behind.

The night is cold. With each breath the old man takes, it cools his lungs. His breath is visible with every exhale. After he’s helped into the car, the door closes behind him. He turns in his seat toward the house where he left his wife. The cold of the night and the warmth of the house has fogged the windows on the door. His wife stands there, leaning against the door frame, her arms folded in front, looking at him through the window. The light inside shines brightly behind her, gleaming through her white hair and revealing nothing but her silhouette. He blows her a kiss. She waves. He blows her another kiss. She waves again. The engine starts and the car rolls away.

It was a perfect day.

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