by Amy Lignor of The Write Companion
"Larger than life" is a phrase I never understood when I was a kid, but there are no better words to describe my beloved grandfather. Joseph Carrier was the ultimate Grandpa; he was also the ultimate husband and father, according to other members of my family J.
Every Sunday we would go to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for lunch (even though they all referred to it as dinner). When we walked in, Grandpa always had a huge smile on his face, and blue eyes that twinkled. He would always tell funny stories about his life and growing up, and we would all laugh. Mom still tells the one where it was so cold one day that Grandpa had his hands in his pockets and his lunch pail and books under his arm. When a dog came from nowhere and began nipping at his heels, Grandpa tried to kick him away, but his hands got caught in his pockets, and he fell down on the ice. He sounded a lot like Bill Cosby, actually. Grandpa would talk about how he walked up the hill to school…both ways.
Grandpa and I had personal time, which was so cool. He would go outside after lunch (dinner) and he would start working on the car, or raking the leaves. He always talked to me about stuff - explained the task that he was doing - like what tool went where and what needed to be done. He would talk about the football game coming up, and he would always hold my hand. Even though I loved my father to death, Grandpa could hold my hand in a way that made me feel like, even if the biggest monster in the world was coming up behind me, it wouldn’t matter - Grandpa would simply save the day. He’d protect me no matter what. When he passed, my nightmares began, and I always wished and prayed that “my warrior” was still on Earth so he could make them all go away.
I loved it when Grandpa sat at the head of the small table and smiled at Grandma across from him. They didn’t need to talk, they would just stare at each other. You could feel the connection. THAT was true love. Those were two people who proved that soulmates actually existed in more than just books and movies. And I’m one of the lucky few whose parents proved the exact same thing.
Grandpa had a light green metal chair that, when you rocked, it made a sound like “da-dong, da-dong.” He’d sit in that outside, and while he told me stories and talked to me that noise kept playing in the background - like music to his perfect lyrics. Sometimes we just went and sat out there because there was an animal in his chair, and Grandpa would NEVER disturb the animals. They were always allowed the furniture first. Maybe he was making up for that dog-kicking incident :-)
The only sound I didn’t like in that perfect house was the breathing machine. Grandpa had asthma, and after dinner (lunch) he would have to sit in the chair in the corner of the small kitchen, flip these metal switches that sounded like a weird little engine had come to life, and breathe into a plastic tube. I heard this sound again, years later, in my father’s hospital room; it came from the machine that was breathing for him and keeping him alive. I so hate that sound.
Grandpa could also draw the most beautiful pictures. I remember him making a squirrel with pencil and, to this day, it rivals anything I’ve ever seen in an art museum. When he got older, Grandpa’s hands began to shake, so the drawing stopped. But I’ll never forget that squirrel.
Christmas was always great - of course it was, we were kids. But on Christmas Eve when Grandpa walked in he’d smile and wink at me. That big smile and those blue eyes made a fantastic gift. And when he took my hand to wish me a Merry Christmas, that feeling of complete and utter protection came over me every single time. Grandpa was always my guardian angel.
Joseph Carrier had class, pride, heart, imagination, humor, and one of the kindest and most beautiful souls I’ve ever seen in my entire life. He loved with such power and grace that I’m still in awe of him.
Luckily enough, with my imagination, when I close my eyes and dream, I visit Grandpa at a beautiful house set in the midst of trees and flowerbeds, with a small river that flows through the property. He’s surrounded by animals. He takes my hand when I come up to say ‘Hi,’ and dazzles me every time with his smile. He looks in the window at Grandma and offers his soulmate that wink, and then he tells me jokes, asks me how Mom is, and how things are going for all of us down here. There’s no breathing machine and there’s no shaking…he feels good.
When we’re finished talking, he gives me a great big hug and I turn around to take a walk through the field with my father. Dad always asks me about his granddaughter - who loves him more than life itself. He always smiled and winked at Shelby. He always took her by the hand every time he saw her and protected her with everything he had.
Like me, my daughter’s hero is her grandfather. Like me, she had the chance to have the perfect man to look up to and love.
Grandfathers. They just don’t get any better than the amazing men in my family.