Monday, June 29, 2015

The Melting Pot VI: Starý Otec

The passing of my starý otec (grandfather in Slovak) is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it pains me to think that the remainder of this life will be had without him. It gives me greater pain to know that my son, born the same week as starý otec’s death, will not know my grandfather. On the other hand I know that he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to save him from his sins, and so I know that I will meet him again on that day when the Lord takes me home as well. 
My daughter with Starý Otec and Stará Mama

My grandfather made a profound impact on my life. In every conversation I had with the man since 2004, he has tried to convince me to move back to Canada to be close to the family. It is somewhat ironic that his life is part of the reason for my desire to be adventurous and strike out on my own. Hearing the adventures of both him and my father after him has created this need for me to be able to pass on stories of my own life to my children. I don’t know that I’ll ever live up to the generations before me.
My starý otec was full of stories. His life was indeed an interesting one. I sat with him every time I visited him and would try to probe into the great tales of his life. I brought several friends out to the farm with me and we would just ask him questions and listen to his stories. He was fascinating! Many of his stories contained the same event; my grandfather would say “and then I sat down and I cried.” For example he visited the dome of the Rock in Israel, and when the tour guide said something about Mohammed returning, starý otec said “no, no, no, no. Mohammed didn’t rise from the dead, Jesus rose from the dead.” Then the tour guide told him to run, so he ran and ran, and his words, “then I sat down and I cried.” He also told me of his coming to Canada. He got on a train from Montreal and ended up in the train station in Windsor, not knowing any English. Not knowing what to do, he sat down and cried. Then he met a man who brought him out to his farmhouse in Harrow and gave him tea and showed him kindness. Starý otec would later buy that farmhouse and it was the house that he and his wife showed kindness to many of us throughout the years. Starý otec was not shy to communicate to me that he often found himself in situations where he was genuinely afraid and had no idea what to do. The story of his life, at least the way in which he communicated it to me, was a testament to the providential care of God.
Starý otec was also a stubborn man. His stubbornness could frustrate the most patient of men. For weeks I had a running argument with my grandfather about how to say ‘thank you’ in Korean. He was adamant that the word was ‘kanta mida’. I assured him that he was wrong, but hey, what do I know, I only lived in South Korea for 8 years, studied the Korean language, and married a Korean woman. He was positive that ‘kanta mida’ means thank you in Korean, because at the corner store in Harrow was a Korean man who told him as much. Finally, the argument developed to the point where I offered to take my grandfather to the store and ask the Korean man himself what the word for thank you is. He took me up on my offer. When we got to the store we asked the man what the word was, and it turned out I was right. Starý otec cocked his head to the side, shrugged his shoulders, and got that grin on his face that many of you are familiar with––like a child caught eating cookies when he shouldn’t be. We laughed about and from then on he would always throw in a ‘kanta mida’ into our conversation.

My starý otec was stubborn, but good-natured. A kind man who lived a full life. He knew the Lord and now knows the Lord more intimately. Though he may not know it, his life was instrumental in shaping the direction of my own. I owe much to him. I love him and miss him. I will see you again starý otec.

My wife and I with Starý Otec and Stará Mama


Laura McMullin said...

Amazing story Jeff! I'm glad i had the privelage to meet him over the years. I will always remember that smile! What a beautiful tribute to a great man.

Jeff Lenhart said...

Thanks Laura. I appreciate hearing from people who knew him. That smile.... I think it's impossible to forget that smile!