An Ode to Grandpa
My little one was excited to know that her great grandfather was soon going to have his 100th Birthday. She exclaimed "Wow Ma, he should have a Grand birthday party where he invites his 100 friends"
“Grandfathers are just antique little boys.”
Old age seems like an impossible age to reach. All I see of it is through the tired eyes of my grandparents. The glory of an active youth slowly gives way to wrinkles and aching joints.
My Grandfather was completing 90 that year. He was coming close to a century of life experiences. I was excited as I was taking home to him his real birthday gift, his great grandchild, my baby girl. He wore his hearing aid to be able to hear us tell her name, but he just smiled and said he would call her "Princess".
My mind wandered into my childhood all over again. I was the eldest grandchild, so always a favorite of the family. Then came along my younger cousins taking away my spotlight. I was older, so I was supposed to behave in a responsible manner. But life comes around a full circle and old age is the beginning of another childhood. So soon Granddad became my friend as he could relate to my child like needs.
Retired from the defense services, he had been a man of discipline. We were in awe of his numerous medals and pictures of him looking so young and handsome in his uniform. He had seen the world wars and the written for Lokmanya Tilak's newspaper, 'Kesari' too. Totally oblivious to his glorious past, he was just a dedicated and doting Grandpa now for all of us. We were taught as children to be well dressed and punctual. He trained us on our table manners. Holidays were for reading classic literature and engaging in creative hobbies. Long early morning walks and natural herbal remedies to our illnesses were his forte.
Then slowly age took its toll over him and slowed down his pace. So now he was a baby again, wanting to let down his guard to enjoy the trivial pleasures of life. I remember visiting him from my college hostel when grandma was unwell. They both were so happy to see me at their door. Grandpa immediately got dressed to buy vegetables. Then as we reached the market, with twinkling eyes, he asked me out for ice cream. It was a "date",the cutest and most romantic one as my Grandad, all excited, bit into his chocobar.
“A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart."
Today he is a model for a lot of his aging friends. He has made an endeavor not only to keep his body but also his mind active. He stayed a voracious reader and took faith in the sublime peace of the Bhagwad Gita, which he reads everyday. He always believed that the lessons of religion were to be imbibed in our character more than followed as rituals. I thought getting old would mean depressions, boredom and ill health. However I learnt the key to his fitness was his immense contentment. He was at ease with what life had given him and the way his family had settled as they grew. He was confident in the way he had brought up his children and the way they would take care of their families in future. It was his time to retire from his responsibilities and take on the small pleasures of life which he had to forgo during his busy youth.
He had created his own happy world, with his wife becoming his best friend and his grandchildren an eager audience. We love his company as he can talk about anything under the sun. He knows his cricket scores, about the political turmoil around the world and kept pace with the emerging technologies.
When we are children we have to learn how to walk, talk, and our parents are our support to grow stronger. We are like soft clay which they shape into their family values. Old age I realize is also a time to relearn again like a child. But this time the mould is ready and they have to set themselves into their new life. My grandpa surely set an example as he trained himself to take care of his own needs , oblivious to attention yet making his presence available for his family when needed. He still enjoys his own space for a quite stroll or to be all day in bed with a book. Now he had a new playmate, his great grand daughter.
The 'Birthday Boy'
He walked into the room in his crisp white kurta (shirt) and and snapped me out of my childhood dreams. As we decorated the room and set the table for his birthday party, I knew all those ninety candles won't go on his cake. But honestly just one candle was enough, because he is never going to be old. His pace of walking has slowed down, but his heart is still racing to give each of us his time, his care and his knowledge. His eye sight has weakened but his attention to details hasn't dimmed as he prompts me pass the cutlery to eat the cake. He can't hear us singing the birthday song now, but he can feel the affection and love in the room, so he smiles...I pray he crosses the threshold of his century in good health and happiness.