My Great! Grandpa

We are fortunate in our family to have a special member who has touched everyone’s heart. My grandfather is blind, but his handicap has made him all the more special to me.

My grandpa, Maurice Beckstead, began to go blind in 1967. My brother Shane was the last grandchild my grandfather was able to see. Grandfather now has three more grandchildren and one great-grandson. When we told him he was now a great-grandfather, his comment was, “I know, I’ve always been great!”

When he started losing his sight, it was hard for him to adjust. He had worked hard his entire life. He enjoyed working and was proud and independent. It was a difficult step in his life for him to accept the fact that he would have to take an early retirement because of his eyesight.

After Grandpa retired, he continued to work hard on his yard and garden, something in which he and my grandmother took great pride. Even with his failing eyesight, he would walk quite a distance every week to turn the irrigation water down to his property in order to water his garden, pasture, and lawns. One summer night his turn came at midnight, and it was a dark and frightening time in his life. After he had taken his water turn and was attempting to return home, he became lost in a cornfield adjoining the right-of-way to the canal. He lost his sense of direction and panicked. He was lost for over an hour, with my grandmother and the neighbors searching, thinking he might possibly have drowned in the canal. They had decided to call the police, but at that moment, a neighbor found him crawling along the side of the road quite a distance from his home. After that incident, his neighbors insisted that they turn the water on for him. He also started to use his cane, a need that was difficult for him to accept.

Grandpa has a terrific memory. He can remember birth dates and special events in great detail. He is also the family taste tester. He likes to sample special dishes and desserts we make for family dinners. And when Grandpa says it’s good, we consider it high praise. For his birthday, Father’s Day, or Christmas, it is difficult to buy him a gift because he can’t enjoy many things, so we usually give him chocolates or candy. When he receives these gifts, he hides them from everyone else so that when he and Grandma are alone, they can enjoy them. And boy, does he enjoy them!

He knows his yard and house by heart. If anyone moves anything of his, such as his shoes, hat, or cane, it makes it nearly impossible for him to help himself and he must ask for help. He always has a horse or cow that he feeds at a specific time twice a day. He usually cares for my uncle’s colt. He knows exactly how much grain, water, and hay to give it. He is always proud of his accomplishments, and whenever someone comes around, he takes pride in showing them how well the animal looks. Because he can’t see a clock, all of his children bought one that chimes on the half hour and the hour. He listens carefully for the chimes.

Grandpa loves to have the grandchildren perform. It doesn’t matter if it’s in marching, singing, dancing, reciting the alphabet, or just talking to him. He will sit and listen to the comments of other people around him, and when someone comes to see him he will say, “You should have seen my granddaughter the other night. She looked great. She was the cutest thing you’d ever want to see.”

My grandfather has taught me a lot through his example. I hope I can learn to be like him with his great sense of humor, his determination, and his love.

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw