If you are curious about what I am up to, I will end the suspense. I am holding my tried-and-true caffeinated companion a.k.a. a strong cup of Joe (with a little plain soy milk and a dash of vanilla extract) and am smiling from ear to ear. Why am I grinning in such a way you ask? I am reminsicing on the conversation I just had with a little old man staying at my apartment complex as he receives cancer treatment. (I live near the Medical District in Houston so it isn’t uncommon to meet someone rocking a hospital band or rolling down the sidewalk a wheelchair.)
So anyway- after losing both my grandfathers, I find comfort in chatting it up my with little old men. My Grandpa Burkert passed away from cancer before I was born, and my Grandpa Curry died a few years ago the same way. I could talk for days about my Grandpa Curry and the stories he would share with my older brother and me. He taught me to only utter kind words and never give up. This second piece of advice may sound cliche, but the man embodied it full-throttle. After falling off his bicycle and breaking his left hip to bits, my less than 5-foot-tall grandpa, was told he would never walk again. He participated in physical therapy and would complete his strengthening exercises diligently. Low-and-below, he was one day able to walk himself into his doctor’s appointment.
Then came the next hurdle. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, an excruciating disease. Not only did my grandfather demonstrate the power of love and longing to live, but my brother, Danny, and my mother, Diane, stood up against the disease as well. My brother would drive more than an hour and a half (one way!) every day to visit my grandpa in the Mayo Clinic and be by his side during treatment. My mother, on the other hand, would spend hours of her time speaking on the phone with medical personnel or flying down South to make life-or-death decisions for her father. Easy to see where I get my “do something about it” approach to life, huh?
My family knows what it means to give up everything for the ones we love. But anyway, I got WAY off topic. So this little old man gets my attention by saying, “I know you are probably busy, but…,” and (You should probably know now that I love a good distraction.) he walks over to me. He starts telling me about how his cancer treatment gets done at about 5am every morning, and him and his wife head over to I-HOP for breakfast. After that, he shares with me how excited he is to see his grandson play in a golf tournament this weekend. He explains to me how family is the most important thing. I am very inquisitive so of course I ask him where he is from, what he used to do, and how retirement is treating him. He said old men do two things, “look up the weather and talk about the weather.” He then dives into the topic of how people used to determine the weather forecast. This conversation continues for a bit of time, and then he declares it is nap time so he is off to rest. Tears are beginning to well-up in my eyes. After losing both of my grandfathers, I will never take moments like these for granted. I know that by devoting my attention to this suspender-clad man, I made his day a little brighter. He in turn did the same for me. Today, let’s take the time to truly listen to others.