My Smile

1 Jan

Grandpas hold our tiny hands for just a little while but our hearts forever. – Author Unknown

Today is the start of a brand new year. It’s also my papa’s 84th birthday.  When I think about my papa, I think about him babysitting for me when I was only two or three years old.  A little girl with endless energy, I used to drag all my baby dolls and stuffed animals from the living room couch to the entrance-way bay windows and back again. When Mama got home, he’d tell her he was exhausted after watching me run around aimlessly (although I had a very clear purpose in mind). Even though he passed away when I was only five years old, in many ways, I still feel like he is watching over me, each and every day.

my papa, my smile

Papa was a sturdy man; at six feet, one inch, he towered over my little-girl world.  His baldhead made me laugh: why didn’t he have any hair up there? He had strong hands, always reaching down to pick me up.  Like most men, he had “his chair” in the living room.  I loved to join him, jumping onto his lap as though that was where I belonged.  He always made me feel safe as if I had nothing to fear.  Despite these masculine features, it was his warm smile that drew people towards him.  I’ve always believed that your smile is a reflection of your heart, and this statement is surely proven true with Papa, for both his smile and his heart were loving and genuine.  If a stranger were to see Papa’s cheerful face, it’d be hard not to smile back.

Before I was born, Papa had serious health problems: a stroke, which left his left arm almost useless, and a heart attack.   Soon after my fifth birthday, the doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer.  Visiting him in the hospital scared me immensely.  The room seemed so unpleasant, so ominous.  Rather than hugging him as I normally would, I walked over to a window and stared at the ground below.  How confused I must have been! Who was this man? Where was my papa?  Why was he in this strange, gloomy room? Why wasn’t he in “his chair”?  He didn’t look like Papa anymore: so many tubes and machines attached to him kept my five-year-old eyes from recognizing him.   I couldn’t jump onto his lap anymore; my safety, my protection, was gone.

My younger brother didn’t see him like I did. Colin walked in the hospital room exclaiming, “There’s my papa!” To him, Papa hadn’t changed; he was the same man he had always been. Colin didn’t hesitate to scramble up onto that uninviting hospital bed; he graciously helped my papa eat his dinner.  After seeing Colin’s reaction, I opened up.  Eventually, I saw the papa who I knew.

Looking back, I realize that my own perception often changes the way I see the world around me.  On the outside, Papa was different: he was surrounded by machines in an unfamiliar room; he didn’t seem so safe anymore; he couldn’t reach down and lift me to the sky like usual; his body seemed weak, as though a heavy burden had been laid upon him. But on the inside, he was the same.  Even though his body was failing him, he wasn’t losing faith.  He still had the same heart, one that shined through even in his most hopeless moments.  He was always – and still is – my smile.


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