Today is my birthday. I turned 36. Four more years on this side of the hill.
Presently, our family is driving south down RT 41 in Indiana to my parent’s fishing trailer near Terre Haute. It’s about a 3 ½ hour drive, and just for clarification – Jeannette is behind the wheel right now. Baylee is watching the Incredibles, Jaxon is out cold, and I’m spending some quality time here with my Mac Book Pro (once you go Mac you don’t go back).
Coming down 41, not too far south from 90/94, we passed the McDonalds in Highland, Indiana. This is a special McDonald’s. This is the McDonald’s that I am the former mayor of. Yes…I’m serious.
Sometime around when I was 6 or 7 years old, this McDonald’s put in its first playground. To help commemorate the playground’s opening, they had a contest to make someone Mayor of McDonald’s for the day. One lucky kid would have their name chosen from the big, gift-wrapped box. The mayor would be entrusted and empowered to cut the ribbon for the opening of the playground, would appear in a local commercial for the McDonald’s, and would get to eat whatever they wanted for the whole day.
My name was picked.
I was mayor.
I could eat whatever I wanted.
Driving by this afternoon, that old playground I cut the ribbon for is gone, replaced with a newer, less tetanus inducing version. When I saw it I thought, “I bet there isn’t a person working there now that even knows about the first playground.”
My grandparents only live about 5 minutes away from this particular Mickey D’s. As we got closer to their place, I really felt a heavy desire to see them. Because the birthday boy can do whatever he wants, and since I was driving then, I made the turn toward their place.
As far back as I can remember I have received a call from my grandparents on my birthday so they could sing the song to me. It has never been particularly on key, but every time I’ve held the phone to my ear I’ve heard notes full of their love and pride for me. You know how sometimes you can hear a smile in someone’s voice? That’s the type of music I’ve heard every September 4th during my birthday call.
This was the heavy desire I was feeling: I wanted to hear my song.
Nana wasn’t expecting us, but that didn’t affect how glad she was that we dropped in. Papa had been sleeping, but woke up when we he heard us come in the door.
My grandfather has been fighting Alzheimer’s for about 10 years. He is now unable to get out of bed, and as time has past his memory has been getting worse and worse. But he has always remembered me, and he always has remembered my name. It’s hard to explain why hearing someone say your name is such an important thing, but it has been to me.
His face lit up when he saw me come up to his bed, I could tell he recognized me.
“Papa, I drove over here because I wanted to hear you & Nana sing.”
“Bob, do you know who that is?”
He looked me in the eye and just started singing: “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to that pretty little girl.”
Baylee had climbed up on his bed.
Nana got him to start over. He sang the first two lines but then went quiet in the third. He looked at her then just looked at me and smiled.
He couldn’t remember my name.
Baylee wanted to play their piano and Jaxon was exploring, so Jeannette & my grandma took the kids upstairs. It was just the two of us together.
“I’m Bobby. Your grandson.”
“You are? Well how are you doing?”
“I’m OK. I think I am. I wanted to see you today. I’ve really wanted to talk to you. I just needed to see you.”
The tears were marching in. “I just wanted you to know how much I love you. I needed to hear you sing today.”
He gave me a look that was half smile and half really serious (grandpa’s can do that) and said, ‘It means a lot to hear you say that. Nana & I both love you very much.”
I lost it. Just leaned down in his bed and hugged him for a while, crying on his chest. I know I just turned 36, but in that moment I wasn’t. I was 6, sitting in his recliner on his lap, while he held me and made me laugh.
I stood up and said, “I’m Bobby. Your grandson. Your buddy.”
He smiled really big, looked me in the eye, and said, “You are.”
I stand at the beginning of 36 today.
God reminded me today that many of the things we get concerned and stressed about in life will eventually be filed in the same memory folder that my one day reign of McDonald’s is in.
God reminded me today that He loves me. As I cried on my grandfather’s chest, two hands were patting me on the back, though I could only physically feel one.
God reminded me today that I have much to be thankful for.
What is it that a person would gain the whole world but lose his soul?