my grandpa, who my family refers to as nanno, played bananagrams a few days ago. this is a game similar to scrabble, where you try to make words out of little plastic letters. however, unlike scrabble, bananagrams houses its letters in an adorable yellow bag shaped like-you guessed it.
to an outside, undiscerning eye, this would look like an ordinary saturday night. lawerence welk was playing on the t.v. in the kitchen. dishes from our family supper sat bubbly in the sink. my brother was in the living room doing his homework. but i assure you, this was a moment that made my heart soar.
about a month ago, nanno was rushed to the hospital with shortness of breath. he had just celebrated his 90th birthday the previous weekend. his sisters, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered to celebrate him and rejoice in his good health. at his golden age, he still finished an entire crossword puzzle every day and was a voracious reader, devouring anything he could get his hands on, no matter how random the content. case in point--his latest book finished was kathy griffin's autobiography. it didn't matter to him. as long as he could keep his mind sharp and engaged, it was enough.
nanno had pneumonia. this is bad news at any age, but at 90 it's like he crossed over into the realm of fraility and we were all worried sick about him. that, coupled with the fact that he only has a fraction of his lungs due to a post-war surgery many years ago.
so we waited. and watched. as this proud, sweet man weakened. it broke our hearts and threatened to break our spirits. nanno used to be the champ at bananagrams. he would beat our entire family, triumphantly exclaiming BANANAGRAMS when he reached his victory. he would come up with the most obscure words, all of which were always in the dictionary.
but we didn't play bananagrams for a while. he didn't feel up to it. instead, he wanted to sit in his chair with a little white blanket covering his feet. he wanted to watch jeopardy and wheel of fortune and let his mind wander. and didn't he deserve it? this is a man who has lived his life in the shadows, serving and helping. shouldn't we serve him and just let him rest?
but last weekend, he did something spectacular. after supper, like usual, we asked do you want to play bananagrams? expecting the usual, "no, not today." but he didn't say that. his little ears perked up and he said sure.
so we played. my sister and her boyfriend won the game, but it didn't matter. nanno had the true victory. that little act was a big feat. it symbolized a return to hope, life and a sense of normalacy. it was tangible proof that God answers prayers.
nanno was back, and it was a beautiful thing. he's not healed--that will be a long road, but he has taken the first baby step toward recovery. and isn't that what life is? just a sweet succession of baby steps along the way? there's a reason babies aren't born with the ability to run. they'd be out of the house in no time, out exploring before they were ready.
crawing, baby steps, time. it's all about preparation. building up your wings before taking flight. because then, when you're truly ready to fly away, it will be more glorious than you ever imagined.
nanno at his 90th birthday