My grandfather passed away less than two weeks ago. We will have a large family gathering in August to remember him. Here are a few reflections about this man of great character….
To us, he was Papa Joe…He always wore a smile, had a joke to lighten the mood, and could put a positive spin on just about anything. I remember once my Grandmother Gail fell and had to be in the hospital for a little while when my sisters and I were visiting. Papa Joe did his best to make us dinner, but the food really wasn’t very good. We all smiled and said thank you and quietly ate our food, trying not to be rude. Then, with an upbeat voice, Papa Joe said, “Well! This would be really good….if we hadn’t eaten in a couple a days!” We all laughed and somehow felt much better about the whole situation.
Papa Joe loved to go for walks and runs. I remember him taking us to all the playgrounds in Dalhart and taking long walks together in the evenings when I got older. I can’t remember ever feeling judged by Papa Joe. I always felt unconditionally loved and supported by him. Isn’t that a remarkable thing to say about a person? How could a person even achieve such a way of being in the world? Even when people do not speak their judgments, we often feel them in what is not spoken. But, from my Papa Joe, I only remember feeling loved.
Of course, there was one time you might not have felt loved by Papa Joe – that’s if you were playing against him in a game of cards! If he didn’t win, he’d probably accuse you of cheating. All of those competitive card games did, however, instill in me a great love of group card games. Perhaps there will have to be some family card games when we are all together in August?
One of the sweet and special joys of my life is that my husband and I lived just a few hours from my Papa Joe and Grandmother Gail for about 5 years. These were the early years of our marriage, the stressful years of grad school, and the sweet years of welcoming our first child into the world. My grandparents offered us a quiet oasis of delicious home-cooked meals, good conversation, and a getaway from the stresses of our young lives. Their “apartment” in Amarillo was a clean and quiet space to read, pray, or take a nap. GG and PJ (as we often called them) were there for the sonogram when we found out we were having a boy. They were there when our boy Jedidiah turned one year old. They were the closest family (in proximity) that we had, and they joyfully shared in the milestones of our lives.
Jedidiah, our baby boy, instantly connected with his great-grandpa. Just about everything Papa Joe did made him giggle. We were sad to move different directions when our family headed to Chicago and Papa Joe and Grandmother Gail made the move to Pine Bluff. Still, we are thankful for some sweet times together in these final years of his life. Our last visit with Papa Joe was in April. He may not have remembered who we were; but, in his characteristic way, he made us all smile and feel loved. Jedidiah did some gymnastics for him, and Papa Joe thought that was amazing. He never seemed bitter or angry, even to the end of his days.
What a remarkable legacy for our family – in a world of divisive opinions and power struggles and unresolved anger, Joe Nisbett was clearly not “of this world.” He was a man of God who had surrendered to the God of love and peace and hope and joy. There is no bigger thing that I want for myself of for my children. Thank you, Papa Joe, you were a living example of the love of God to so many. May we all follow your gentle, smiling lead.