my grandpa's cane

10 years ago, my grandpa passed away. he was pretty sick the last few years of his life. i knew that he wasn’t going to be with us much longer towards the end of my peace corps service. i was worried that i would get the call from peace corps that i needed to call home, but luckily this never came.

grandpa waited for me to come back.

but i should back up.

while i was a peace corps volunteer, i was living on a farm, in the middle of nowhere. but i’m a city girl. i had never lived on a farm in my life and had no idea about farming or animals or what it actually took to grow food and live off the land. BUT my grandpa was a farmer for his entire life. so i liked to share this with my fellow villagers. and boy did they love it!

it quickly became ‘a thing’ that my grandpa was a farmer, so i knew about farming. that part wasn’t so true, but to zambians, it didn’t matter much. farming was in my family. when people would greet me, they would ask about me, and then my grandpa and his farm: how was the crop? how was the rain? how were the animals? grandpa wasn’t full-time farming at this point in life, but i would always say things were going well!

when it came time to finish my peace corps service, i spent days walking and riding my bike around the village to say goodbye to everyone. and it was when i went to go and visit banoah, that i got one of the most amazing going away gifts ever.

banoah had carved a walking stick for my grandpa, a fellow farmer. so so SO amazing and thoughtful and caring. and i couldn’t wait to give it to grandpa.

now it was time to pack the bags and head to the airport. everything was shoved in but grandpa’s walking stick wouldn’t fit in my bag, so i had to carry it. banoah had wrapped it nicely for me but security wouldn’t let me through with it. the man kept telling me that it could be a weapon and i would have to check it. at this point, i was explaining the whole story and that i couldn’t leave it or risk it getting broken in my checked luggage.

the security man looked at me and said, ‘unwrap it. and if anyone asks, you need a cane.’

I WAS SO EXCITED!!!! zambians don’t usually exhibit such ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking or such empathy! i was so grateful that this guy was willing to help me get this cane home to my grandpa.

when i got off the airplane in sioux falls, my mom was there (which i wasn’t expecting because she was supposed to be somewhere for a work trip), so i knew something was up. she gave me a hug and said we were going to go and see grandpa. he had been in hospice care and didn’t have much longer.

i walked into the room and grandpa looked at me and his face lit up! he was chatty and we were having a great catch up and i was able to give him the cane and tell him the whole story of who gifted it to me and why. he held onto that cane so tightly for the rest of his life.

grandpa only lived a few more days. after that night, he wasn’t talking much and wasn’t ‘grandpa’ any more. the hospice nurse explained that this happens sometimes, people will become themselves for a brief time before they die. that way, we can have 1 last good conversation with them. and i have been grateful for this ever since.

i have his cane now, it sits in my mom and dad’s living room. and it reminds me of my grandpa and how he helped me connect to my new community all those years ago.

my grandpa striking a pose somewhere in europe during the korean war.
on the farm in geddes south dakota with one of many pigs.
me showing grandpa something i drew for him on the farm.
i like this later picture of jordan, grandpa, me and auntie roxie!
grandpa in front of his childhood house when he was a kid with his rifle and as an old man with his cane! (we didn’t take this photo to match, i recently found this picture of him as a kid!)

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