Grandpa was always on the move, and once he decided to go, he didn't waste time looking back. This vital part of his character started at an early age. He was only four when his mother died, and as soon as he was old enough, he left Irwin, Missouri and traveled the world before settling in Kansas City in the early 1920's.
Emerson Moseley worked at the central office of the Postal Telegraph and received market closings from all satellite offices. Night after night he received reports, but one in particular caught his attention because it always closed the same way. "Ok, good night, God bless you, see you tomorrow, Della Kay." Curiosity got the best of him and he decided to pay her a surprise visit.
Della Kay was a good woman and realized right away that Emerson was a man worth catching. They were married three weeks later against the protests of everyone who knew them. "It will never last," they said, but it did. For 60 years.
Three hundred sixty eight days after the wedding their first and only child arrived. Emerson tried several jobs in town but soon became bored with the routine. He hit the road and spent most of his life working out of his car. The road was a symbol of life and offered limitless opportunities. He always returned home with a gift or two under his arm, but one particular Christmas surprise would change their lives forever. On his arm was a Kitten; not the feline variety, but the woman who would marry his son and give him the granddaughters who would breathe new life into him. That's where I come into the picture. I'm the first-born child of that marriage.
Grandpa became my best friend at a very early age. He taught me to read and write before I went to school and never stopped teaching me. He instilled in me an unquenchable thirst for learning. Because we were always together, I was quickly dubbed his "little buddy." My sister arrived five years after I did, and things seemed to fit perfectly when she and my grandmother bonded in much the same way.
We enjoyed countless blessings but our lives were also touched by trials. My sister and I both married and brought another generation of grandchildren into their lives. Grandma suffered a cruel stroke that affected both body and speech, leaving her able to think but unable to communicate. When my father died unexpectedly, we grieved together and pulled closer as a family. My sister and I tried to fill the void in their lives and became even richer for it.
Against Grandma's protests, Grandpa sold the house with its memories, bought an apartment at the best retirement community in town, and auctioned off everything they owned. The idea of change revitalized him, but every blow of the auctioneer's gavel tore away at my grandmother's heart.
Grandma wilted in the new environment, but Grandpa flourished. He was on new turf, had a lot of exploring to do, and was relieved of the draining task of giving total care to Grandma. Although he made friends there, he remained devoted to her, and wore the carpet thin through the maze of hallways that connected his apartment to her tiny room.
I called the apartment every morning under the guise of checking on Grandpa, but the truth was that I didn't want to start my day without him. On Saturdays I would go to Grandpa's apartment with my children, and we would go as a group to visit Grandma. I believed it was my responsibility to help her visualize life outside that pale green room.
Grandpa became quite a hit at the home with the masses of widows confined to the nursing home. They watched with envy when he wheeled Grandma through the halls. A healthy male in a nursing home is a rarity and caused a lot of whispers among the old ladies when they thought he was out of earshot. Their comments of appreciation always made me smile.
In time, Grandma passed on and we became concerned when he seemed to give up on living. I stood by helplessly and watched this strong man deteriorate until it finally became necessary to move him to the nursing home. He settled into a tiny little room with only a bed and his recliner. I decorated the room with pictures of the family and my children proudly supplied him with new drawings or schoolwork on a regular basis. His wardrobe was reduced to three outfits with MOSELEY scrawled on every piece with Magic MarkerTM so no one else would steal them. It broke my heart to see him there, but just as I started trying to prepare myself to live without him, I began to see a change.
On one of our family's weekly visits, I noticed a smiling silver-haired woman waving at him as we walked through the cafeteria. Grandpa nodded as if he were tipping his hat and I was thrilled to see a spark I hadn't seen in months.
"That woman has a crush on me," he said.
"Who is she?" I asked as I looked toward her, wondering if she were responsible for the new spring in his step.
"Her name is Maude."
We headed out the door for Long John Silver's, his favorite place to eat. We went there every Saturday without fail and each time he would say the same thing.
"This is the best meal I've ever had."
"But Grandpa, you said that last week," one of the kids would invariably say.
"I do believe it's even better this week," he'd say with a wink, and of course we all smiled, happy to see him enjoying it. We were getting him back and it was a wonderful feeling.
Grandpa spent Christmas Day with our family at the house and took us all by surprise when he made an announcement.
"I'm getting married," he said.
"You're what?" I asked, believing he had suffered a mild stroke.
"I'm getting married," he insisted.
"To who?" I asked, testing him.
"To whom," he said. "It's always whom after a preposition."
"Okay, Grandpa, you caught me. To whom?" I asked.
"Remember that lady you saw in the cafeteria? We're going to get married."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. I asked her, and she said yes."
"When is this going to take place?" I asked. Surely he hadn't thought this through.
"As soon as we can. We don't have much time," he said.
For the entire day I humored him, wondering if he would remember any of this tomorrow. When I took him back to the home, he insisted I meet Maude, so we walked down the hall to her room. She was a charming woman still full of life and I could see in a few short minutes why he wanted to spend what was left of his life with her.
The following Saturday both sides of the family got together and listened to their ideas. Everyone was enlisted with a cause and three weeks later, on January 12 they were married. Grandpa never believed in long engagements, and this time it seemed to make perfect sense.
The months that followed were a learning experience in love.
"Now that Maude and I are married, do you think she could go out with us on Saturdays?"
"I think we can find a place for her," I said.
Maude was a mover, too. She loved going for rides with us and especially appreciated looking at the trees and the long stretches of land away from the city. It was on these Saturday drives that we grew to truly love this woman who was born way before her time. I knew these two kindred spirits were meant to be together. For some reason it didn't happen early in life, but it was still just as sweet. Unlike most couples at the home who were dying on the vine, these lovers were blooming.
The newlyweds would sit in the back seat of my car and carry on like teenagers. They sat close together with arms entwined, and occasionally I'd catch a glimpse of them kissing in the rear view mirror. I'd look over my shoulder and pretend to scold them.
"Am I going to have to take you two back to the apartment?" I asked.
The teasing just encouraged more kissing. They were living proof that we're never too old to find love and never too old to give it. It was a beautiful lesson for all those who witnessed it.
The morning phone calls continued and Maude brought a new flavor to the conversation.
"What are you doing this morning, Maude?" I asked.
"We're just sitting here making love," she replied.
I was stunned. Were they really making love? When she told me the same thing every time I called, I decided that for the two of them, making love was just the act of being together. Sharing themselves with each other. A spiritual bonding.
The months that followed were a joy for all of us and we hoped they would be able to celebrate many years together. One morning in November, though, Grandpa suffered a stroke and for the next four months he lived in a world where we couldn't reach him. Grandpa spent their first anniversary in a hospital bed. Maude was heartbroken. So was I.
My weekly visits became difficult when he could no longer participate. I didn't give up, only because I hoped somehow he did know I was there, even if he couldn't respond. I desperately missed our daily talks and his loving encouragement. I missed his humor and curiosity about life. I even missed having him correct my grammar! I prayed for miracles to restore his health but it wasn't to be. God had other plans for this gentle spirit.
On our final Saturday together, after spending an hour delivering my monologue about unimportant daily activities, I tried one last time for some sign of recognition before walking out the door.
"Grandpa, do you know who I am?" Please, Grandpa, tell me who I am.
His body slumped against the strap holding him in the wheelchair. I watched him strain to raise his head, but it was too heavy. With no other choice, he touched me the only way he could, with eyes that saw right through me.
"Of course I know who you are. You're my little buddy."
I held him in my arms and felt the hot tears running down my cheeks. Nothing could have meant more to me; no other words could have been sweeter. I had my answer and it was time to let him go. From that point forward I prayed for his spirit to be released from his tired, old body.
On Monday, the doctors told us he only had a few days left. I signed donor cards for his eyes because that's what Grandpa had told me to do. I hoped that whoever received them would see the world in the same beautiful way he did. Tuesday, I brought my children to his side to say good-bye. Wednesday morning, I planned to visit him mid-day but got the distinct impression that I should go early. I'll always be grateful I followed that prompting. I sat by his side, stroking his hand and feeling helpless until Maude arrived. Maude was a nurse and recognized the signs of death right away. We held his hands and shared our love with this gentle man who had made such an impression on our lives. When finally he exhaled the last bit of air his lungs would hold, I stood there silently for a moment before going to get the nurse. I wanted to savor the look of peace on his face before the nurses came in to make their final preparations.
"You might as well bury me in the casket with him," Maude cried. "I don't want to go on without him." I knew exactly how she felt. There would never be another quite like him.
When they covered him with the sheet, I took Maude back to her room. We laughed and cried as we reminisced about the time we shared with him. I drove home in a stupor and spent the afternoon feeling my loss. When my children arrived home from school and saw me there, they knew the end had come and joined me in my grief.
On Friday we cried again with family and friends as the minister delivered the eulogy we prepared. Instead of mourning our loss we celebrated his life. We buried him next to Grandma - not in the quiet spot under the large Maple tree, but right up against the busy road traveled by thousands of active people every day. He picked the spot. He said he wanted to hear the roar of traffic passing by. As long as there was a road, there was someplace else to go.
back to the Short Story Page.Grandpa Was a Mover, 11 August 1997