This week marks the 150th anniversary of my Grandpa Taylor’s birth. He was born before the Civil War started, and he lived halfway into the Twentieth Century. He saw the birth of many technological and scientific changes, of course. And he saw wars begin and end. Because of circumstances in his life he lived in a dozen or more towns in seven states. He was no stranger to change. I don’t know if he welcomed it or not, but he “went with the flow” as we say today, with a good attitude.
There were challenges in his personal life. In Kansas, he sought out a healthier climate for his wife, the love of his life. But she died of tuberculosis, leaving him with a son and daughter to raise. Their son was twelve and their daughter was only seven. His wife’s unmarried sister came to help raise the children. He moved them to Colorado to form a home with his widowed mother—an interesting household of three generations, related, but not the typical nuclear family. Again, I think his attitude influenced the atmosphere of the home. His children grew to be fascinating adults with wonderful personalities. His daughter became my mother. He was in his 70s by the time I was born, the youngest of five children in our family.
My family, too, saw lots of change. Our dad was a small-town minister who moved often, five times before I was born and six times after that. We confused the border guards at the Canadian border one vacation when the seven of us in the car reported we were born in seven different states.
Eventually Grandpa Taylor came to live with us. He was a strong, quiet influence on my childhood years. His hobby, begun in middle age, to ward off the effects of arthritis in his hands, was decorative wood carving. In the early years he created many pieces of furniture. He wasn’t a fine cabinetmaker; much of his work was rather primitive, but the carving on the pieces was exquisite. I spent many hours watching him wield chisels to create floral wall plaques, bookends, bead necklaces, chess sets and tiny animals on a work table created from a large trunk that contained all sorts of mysterious memorabilia—a kaleidoscope of bits and pieces of his heritage.
Sometimes we sat together under a cherry tree in the back yard, doing food preparation like shelling peas, shucking corn, or pitting cherries. We played games: Chinese checkers, caroms, even chess. He always won, but he was never condescending. After a win he’d set the pieces back a few moves, and say, “Let’s see what might have happened if you’d moved this way.” He let us learn by example how to play better.
One of my enduring memories is the image of him sitting in a high-backed green velvet rocking chair in his room, spending most of Sunday afternoon reading his Bible. A newspaper reporter sent to interview him about his woodcarving asked him for comments about growing older. “I have more time to spend with the Psalms, especially Psalm 23.” He pronounced it, as some did in those days, Sams.
Grandpa was a man of quiet wisdom, gentle humility, and adaptability developed, I believe, from his love of and proper fear of the Lord.
Just as many people influence our lives, our lives, in turn, touch others in ways we may never know. I am now grandmother to two of Grandpa Taylor’s great-great-grandsons. One is 21 years old, a senior in university, almost ready to launch out on his own. We’ve had twenty-one years of sharing our lives. I treasure those years. I won’t have as long with the second; he’s less than a year old. But I pray that whatever and whoever has made me who I am will be of positive influence on that little boy as he grows “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.”