Is Grandpa Crying

I stood silently for a moment, looking at the young man kneeling on the floor.  I needed time to let my bruised ego heal.

I know.  It’s a pretty fragile ego that can’t stand up to a boy’s question, but there it was.

He had asked the question several times.  That could have been it.

No.  It was just the idea that I wasn’t enough.  I wanted to be enough.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?  Let’s see if we can sort this out.

The lad’s father had dropped him off earlier, telling me he’d be happy to pick him up if there was any trouble.  I didn’t expect any and told the young man’s father so.

He is my grandson, after all.  Grandpas and their grandsons can do a job together without falling out, can’t they?

I wonder if the last time had anything to do with his offer.  It was a month or more ago.

I have this vision of a man on his knees in the kitchen struggling with the tile he is laying down.  The old guy is clearly an amateur, unsure of his next move, but determined to make one anyway.

Oblivious to his grandfather’s quandary, the fair-haired boy at his side has a tape measure in his hand and is talking a mile a minute.

“Look, Grandpa!  Six inches!  Is that long enough?  Hey, what does that rubber roller do? What are you going to do now?  Can I help you cut the next piece?  Do you think I could pound on it with that hammer thingy like you did? Are you ever going to finish this job?”

I don’t remember what happened next.  Well, in truth, I don’t want to remember it, so we’ll just say I’m ashamed and move on, okay?

That memory, or lack thereof, is the reason I invited the boy back for another shot at laying vinyl tile—in the bathroom this time.  I reasoned that I was now a pro at the task, having successfully (mostly) completed the original job in the kitchen.

I wanted another chance at being a better Grandpa as much as I wanted him to have another chance at laying the flooring with me.

What could go wrong?

We were using the left-over material from the kitchen job.  We had enough to cover the bathroom floor with nothing to spare. 

We couldn’t make a mistake.  Not one.

The first cut I made was on the wrong end of the directional vinyl.  The very first cut.

I did the only thing I could do.

I yelled for the Lovely Lady.

The boy’s grandma quickly came in from the front bedroom where she had been painting the walls.  I showed her my error and enlisted her puzzle-solving skills to help us determine where we could work in the pieces I had cut wrong.

I think it may have gotten us off on the wrong foot.  Every time after that, when we came to a moment of indecision or panic (on my part—not his), the young man looked up and asked if I wanted him to go get Grandma.

Well?  Every kid knows if Grandma can’t fix it, it can’t be fixed.

It’s only logical.  Grandma fixes boo-boos with Wonder Woman bandages.  She can thread a needle in three seconds.  She can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like nobody else.  She knows just when to get out the chocolate chip cookies.  She mends the ripped dollies. 

Grandma can fix it.

I get it.  Still, it hurt.  After the third time he asked the question, I stood for a moment considering.  I didn’t want a repeat of the event we’re not talking about, so I took my time.

Finally, in a calm, unhurried manner, I told him the only time he’d need to call Grandma for help on this job was if Grandpa was crying.

I had no intention of crying.

The handsome young lad gazed at my face, a smile playing around his mouth.  He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or simply to nod seriously and wait for my next move.

He didn’t suggest we call Grandma again.  Grandpa never cried.  Well, there was that time the trim board fell on my head, but I suppose rubbing your skull and yelling Ow! isn’t crying, is it?

Nobody cried.  This time.  But, I’ve been doing some thinking.  

Why are we experienced humans (old people) so slow to ask for help? 

Our kids have no such reticence.  Yet we, in our great wisdom (or ignorance) keep muddling through, making mistake after mistake, swinging the hammer thingy when we ought to be operating the roller, smashing thumbs and sucking the blood.

All we need do is call.  Aid is ours, simply for the asking.

The writer of the Psalms knew it.  The reason I call on you is that I know You will answer me.  Listen now, and hear my request. (Psalm 17:6)  

And, it is a fact that even David wept before God as he prayed.  But, most of the time he asked long before that.  Long before.

Why does somebody have to cry before we will accept help?

I said earlier I wanted to be enough in my grandson’s eyes.  It is the desire all of us have.  I read again and again these days, in the self-help, self-image propaganda that we need to know we are enough.

I don’t want to offend, but it’s a lie.

I am not enough.  I never have been.  On my own, I stumble along in the dark, feeling my way and frequently, falling apart.

I am not enough, but He is.  Again and again, He is enough.

More than enough.

I can’t tell you if we need to call Grandma.

I do know that before the trouble starts, prayer works.

In the hardest days of our lives, God is there.

When the tears fall, He is enough.

He doesn’t need second chances to be a good Father.

But, I’m kind of glad He gives second chances for this old man to be a good Grandpa.

I need lots of practice.


If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.

(Old Italian proverb)

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

(Matthew 7:11 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 Paul Phillips
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