I don’t know if you were blessed to spend time with your grandparents, but I was. Today, I want to tell you about my sweet Grandpa, Sid Allen Johnson.
Grandpa was born and raised in southwestern Oklahoma. He was the oldest of seven boys (bless my great grandmother!). Because he was the oldest, he was often left in charge—he was the protector, the leader, the farm foreman. It was his job to make sure his six younger brothers were safe and did what they were supposed to do.
Farming was always a huge part of my grandpa’s life. As a child, we would go spend several weeks at the farm during harvest. We loved riding the great big Massey Ferguson tractor with my dad! We would go to the pool at Lone Wolf, and Grandpa always bought us Moon Pies. To this day, I still love a Moon Pie and always think of my grandpa.
But Grandpa wasn’t just a farmer. After high school, Grandpa went to college and earned a degree in education—something very few individuals born in 1911 did. He taught math, starting in a one-room schoolhouse before going back to get his Masters degree in administration. He then finished his career as a principal. Along the way, he also sold life insurance and was quite good at it. To say he was a hard worker is an understatement.
In 1934, Grandpa married my Grandma, Cora Lee. She was a character! In contrast to my grandpa’s hard-working demeanor, Grandma reveled in being spoiled. Grandpa took such good care of her for the nearly 72 years of their marriage. I don’t think Grandma ever put gas in a car by herself. Grandpa believed it was his job to be the provider and caretaker—and he lived that out well.
In 2006, my Grandma had a heart attack on her 94th birthday. She passed away eleven days later on Valentine’s Day. As my grandpa looked at her body in that casket, he said, “She’s just as beautiful as she was when I met her 75 years ago.” The pain and anguish of losing his sweetheart was almost unbearable.
In true Grandpa fashion, he made it his mission to continue as the patriarch of our family, caring for us, feeling as if it was his responsibility to watch over us and make sure we were all protected.
When I was going through my divorce, my parents moved back to Oklahoma City from southwestern Oklahoma and they brought my grandpa with them. Dad wanted Grandpa to go to an assisted living center, thinking it would give him some friends and activities to keep him busy. Grandpa flat out refused—and bought at brand-new house at the age of 98.
Who buys a brand-new house at the age of 98? A caretaker who wants to provide for his family.
In the summer of 2010, my grandpa was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of skin cancer on his heady. The prognosis was not good, and we were told we only had a few short weeks or months with him. A year later as the cancer invaded his brain and his body, we had no choice but to make the agonizing decision to put him in a nursing home. He was so confused and unable to do anything for himself by this time. He was weak and was falling repeatedly. We could no longer care for him at home.
And so that brand-new house sat empty.
We made the decision that the kids and I would move into Grandpa’s house, alleviating me of a house payment or rent. In addition, since my parents had built a house next door, it made it easier on them and the kids to be so close. It was the moment when we all realized God had used that new house so Grandpa could continue to be a provider and caretaker for his family.
I’ll never forget the day I went to see my grandpa at the nursing home. He was deteriorating rapidly. We knew we didn’t have much time with him. He was seeing people from his past, not recognizing us all the time. But this day, he knew exactly who I was…and I could tell death was on his mind.
“Who’s going to take care of you?” he asked with a quivering voice and tears streaming down his face. With no husband to take care of me, he was concerned for me, for my kids. He didn’t come from an era where women were able to take care of themselves, to work and provide for their family. He came from an era where women needed a man, a protector, a caretaker, a provider.
I gently reminded him. “Grandpa, God is going to take care of me. It’s ok. I’m in good hands.
As I spoke the words, you could sense the peace that fell over the room. You could see the relief in his face. He knew the Father. He knew I was walking with God. He knew I was right. In that moment, I knew that I had given him a tremendous amount of peace by giving him permission to go home to the Father and to my grandmother and his infant daughter he had never known.
He never again spoke of his fears of leaving me unprotected.
Five years later, in 2016, Roy and I began dating. I had spoken of my grandpa and of the fact it was my grandpa’s house that we lived in, but Roy had never seen my grandpa. The image Roy had of my grandpa was that of a farmer—overalls and driving a truck—not the professional who always wore his Dockers and a button-down shirt with a cute little hat.
One day, we were at my parents’ house when Roy asked me to come back to the hallway. There on the wall were a number of pictures from over the years. Roy pointed at a picture and asked with great concern, “Who is that man?”
“That’s my Grandpa Sid, the one whose house I live in,” I replied.
It was then that Roy began to recount an experience he had at my house. One day, he was in the hall bathroom washing his hands. He was the only one in the house—or so he thought. He looked up, and in the mirror he could see the reflection of a man standing in the hallway. Startled, he asked, “May I help you?”
The man didn’t reply. At this point, Roy is feeling a little on edge, and the fight-or-flight mentality is beginning to kick in. He asked again, “Can I help you?”
No response. Roy briefly looks away in preparation to turn around and confront this strange man standing in my hallway. But when he does, the man is gone. Vanished.
Roy never said anything to me, until the day he saw the picture of my grandpa. Suddenly, the story began to pour out of him.
“That man in the picture is THE MAN I saw in your hallway,” he said. “I’ve never seen a picture of your grandpa. He was wearing Dockers jeans with a button-down shirt and had a cute little hat on. He even had a sports coat! I thought your grandpa would wear overalls since he was a farmer!”
As he described my grandpa’s clothes, it was EXACTLY what Grandpa wore every day (unless he was at church where he still wore a suit)! I had NEVER talked to Roy about what Grandpa wore, but I immediately began to dig through my pictures. He confirmed repeatedly that yes, that was the man standing in my hallway.
Now, I’ve never been a believer in ghosts. I do believe in angels that God sends to protect us. I have to admit, though, that right after Grandpa died, we had some strange things happen. There was music playing in my backyard for several days, and we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. One of Grandpa’s biggest regrets was that he repeatedly turned down Grandma’s requests to dance, so we just assumed they were now dancing in heaven to the music playing in my backyard. We did eventually figure out where the music was coming from, but we never figured out how it was turned on after Grandpa died.
The pecan grove my Grandpa loved. He and Grandma would get on the 4-wheeler and pick pecans until their hearts were content (yes, a 4-wheeler well into his 90s). The pecan grove withered and died within months of Grandpa dying.
One day, Roy’s special needs daughter was in her room in our house, the same one Grandpa bought that I have now purchased from my parents. She began to reach out and call the name Pawpaw as she looked down the hallway where Roy first saw my grandpa. There was—obviously—no one there.
Throughout it all, we simply told Roy that Grandpa wasn’t going to rest easy until he knew I was taken care of. His appearing to Roy was about making sure Roy was going to treat us right, to take care of us, to be our protector and provider. It’s become a running joke in the family that Roy needs to always be on his best behavior because Grandpa is watching.
Roy takes those jokes seriously. And he does an AMAZING job of treating us in a manner that would make Grandpa very happy.
Why do I tell this story? For one, because Grandpa is on my mind today. We lost him October 24, 2011, just 24 days shy of his 100th birthday. But, I also tell it because I want you to remember you, also, have someone looking after you. I don’t know if it’s your grandpa or your dad or some other important person in your life. Maybe you don’t ever see him/her (I’ve never seen Grandpa), but God will never leave you alone. It’s not the job of any human to be your provider or protector; it’s the job of our Heavenly Father. He is the best protector, the best provider, the best caretaker, you could ever have.
Sometimes he uses us as humans to look out for those around us. Sometimes he sends angels. But always, He is there, even when we can’t see him.
Kind of like my grandpa. I’ve never seen him, but I know he is here.