Grandpa laughed at his own jokes.
Rather than weakening stories, Fred Stewart’s laughter strengthened them. He’d tell jokes in his straight-backed chair, arms folded, and his shoulders shook with laughter. Old jokes. Corny jokes. But he told them so well, I laughed too, even when I was a too-sophisticated college student.
Grandpa was a World War II veteran, a businessman of wisdom and integrity, and a valued member of church finance committees. He enjoyed walks in the California desert with my grandmother and took his two sons white-water rafting after he retired. I am blessed to be his granddaughter.
When his heart gave way in 1992, his memorial service packed the sanctuary, and my grandmother’s home filled with out-of-town relatives, including a ravenous women in her third trimester (me). The logistics of feeding the crowd could have compounded Grandma’s grief, but the people of the church reached out with tangible love and provided meals. They stuffed the refrigerator with lasagna, enchiladas, fried rice – and peaches.
Grandpa passed away in August. Peach season.
We received peach pies, cobblers, and jam. Bags of fresh peaches covered Grandma’s kitchen counter. The scent of peaches permeated the house. As the week passed and the fruit piled up, we struggled to suppress laughter when yet another friend presented peaches with pride and delight. After they left, the laughter came, and with the laughter came tears. Grandpa would have relished the humor, he would have told the story often and well, and he would have chuckled when he told it.
Whenever I see a peach, I recall the rosiness of Grandpa’s face when he laughed and the sweetness of the gifts my family received in our grief.
The gift of peaches. The gift of laughter.