The Birthday Card

Grandpa planned for everything.  Absolutely everything.  If something needed to be done, it was done instantly, and that was already too much delay.  He never neglected to purchase Grandma a card for every occasion that they celebrated together.  It was a tradition that we laughed about, because all they ever did was sign their name to the bottom of the card, and yet they were still touched by each others cards.  Time after time, when one of us would visit, they would hold up the greeting card given to them by the other and say “Isn’t it a nice card?”  Of course, it was a nice card, carefully chosen to express what they would say if they had been inclined to write the message themselves.

As usual, Grandpa had planned ahead.  He purchased Grandma’s card three or four months before her birthday.  He hid it away in the drawer.  The only thing he didn’t foresee was the weakness that would settle on him as his death drew nearer.  He probably never imagined that he would be too weak to sign the single word “Jim” to the bottom of Grandma’s birthday card, but that is indeed what happened.

This unsigned birthday card will always be the most special card to Grandma.

The following is something that Mom wrote for my brother in law, Matt, to read at Grandpa’s funeral.

The Saturday before Grandpa died, they were yet again in the hospital and it
was Grandma’s birthday.  His pneumonia had worsened and he had been in a
heavy sleep-like, very weak state most of the time during this stay.
But during one of his small wake periods, he told her happy birthday and
that he loved her.  Though he was weak and bedfast he told her if she
would just get his boots and take his hand they could make it out with
no one noticing.  He so wanted to go home and we are so glad he died
at home with Grandma, all of his children and more family in and out
caring for him.  Anyway, he told her that his birthday card for her was
at home in the desk drawer.  Though he never got a chance to sign it, it
will probably be the most special card ever to Grandma.  Here is what it
said:

You know the story.

Two people meet and fall in love.  They move all their
belongings into the same small place and begin to make a life
together.  They discover that they have three toasters, two
blenders, and not even one coffee maker.  They don’t fold their
shirts the same way and they can’t always agree on whose turn it is to clean house.

But these are the little things . . . and because these two
people love each other, they find a way to work them out.

As time passes, there are other things—money worries, illnesses, family crisis.

These are the big things.  But because the two people love each other, they find a way to work them out too.

And so, on special days like birthdays, they think about each
other and about all the fun stuff they share and about how their
love has got them through the not so fun stuff.

And he says to her . . .

Thank you for everything.  I still love you very much.

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