Setting ‘The China’ For Grandpa


“A frail old man lived with his son, his daughter-in-law, and his four-year-old grandson. His eyes were blurry, his hands trembled, and his step faltered.

The family would eat together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon, dropping to the floor. When he grasped his glass of milk, it often spilled clumsily at the tablecloth.

With this happening almost every night, the son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about grandfather,” said the son.

“I’ve had enough of his milk spilling, noisy eating and food on the floor,” the daughter-in-law agreed.

So the couple set a small table at the corner.

There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in wooden bowls. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening, before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly: “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy replied, “Oh, I’m making a little bowl for you and mama to eat your food from when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

These words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears streamed down their cheeks. Though no words were spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening, the husband took grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table.

For the remainder of his days, grandfather ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk was spilled or the table-cloth was soiled.” (“Wooden Bowls”, author unknown)

Years ago my wife and I visited her family.  Her mother was advancing in age and having problems with her memory.  She might ask you the same question regarding your life multiple times in an hour.  As we didn’t live close by it was easier for us to be patient. But there were other members of the family that lived close by and had to deal with this situation on a daily basis.  I was impressed with the patience and kindness of my father-in-law who never seemed to lose his temper in explaining, once again to his wife, what we were doing, where we were going and who was going to be there.  Often she voiced her opinion that she had never been told these things, but she had, over and over.  I am sure it is hard to not get overly frustrated in dealing with this problem. No truer love can a person show to another than under such circumstances. My father-in-law was not of any particular faith, but everyone that knows him will testify that he is a man of Christ.

I think if all of us examine the normal course of life we know that the possibility exists that we might be battling the same kind of diseases down the road.  The thought is chilling! We all know “what” we should do, it’s the “doing” that can be hard. Like any talent, and being kind is a talent possessed by some, it takes practice to perfect.  The more we practice being kind to others, the better we get at it till it becomes a natural part of “who” we are. That, of course, is why the Savior naturally lived a service-centered life and why he delights when we follow his example and become like him. The day may come when one of my close family members might have to deal with this situation regarding my own life. If that day should come, I hope they will have compassion on me and treat me with respect!  I hope they will still keep me at the main dinner table.  Because even if I won’t remember it a day later, I will still enjoy the momentary pleasure of eating off the China.


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