Presidents Day: I didn’t sleep most of the night, but then fell asleep around 4:00 AM and woke up mid-morning to bright sunshine. I wasn’t in much pain, but I was grumpy just the same. The weather forecast promised an unusually warm, sunny day for mid-February. Two days before, I had had some minor surgery and doctor ordered rest for a few days. No “farm boy” could possibly be happy laying around the house in PJs, gazing out the window on a day like this—Grump, Grump.

Helen, the youngest of my five granddaughters.

There was a knock on my bedroom door: “Grandpa? Grandma says your breakfast and coffee are ready.” I opened the door to a tight hug and a sweet smile. I love her smile. Ever since she was a baby she always smiled with her whole face, especially her eyes, just like her Momma and my Mother. “Well, good morning Helen,” I said. “No school today, huh?” “Yeah, it’s President’s Day,” she replied. “Momma dropped us off on her way to work. Grandma says it’s about TIME you got up!”

Helen is a gregarious child. Only nine years old and in the 3rd grade. She seems older. She is a chatterbox who, with much enthusiasm, can cover myriad topics in great detail in minutes. She is quick with a hug and a kind word. Her empathy towards others is mentioned by teachers who relate how she befriends special needs children who she helps with work and play.

Helen with Mac the dog.

By the time I stumbled out to the kitchen and sat with my cup of coffee, Helen and her sister Clara were already out the door and into the sunshine; they, too, knew it was the kind of day for outside play. Next to my coffee cup was a sheet of unlined pink paper folded in quarters with hand-written words: To: Grandpa.

I opened the folded sheet. At the top of the page was written:

Hope you get well! From: Helen.

A Get Well Letter from Granddaughter Helen.

On the left was a drawing, indistinguishable until I read her words. The drawing was a “portal”. Or a cave, with mushrooms and three-dimensional crystals growing on its sides—through the entrance, a winding path. Below the drawing, a poem (her spelling):

Where does this lead?

What will it do?

Why am I asking questions?

Will it be luxary?

Well, this portal will lead too no where

If you go through you will come back too the same place

Because that portal chooses what’s best

And it will take you too the right place for you

And too the place where people love you.

With moist eyes, I sat at the table a long while with a coffee cup in one hand and the get-well-letter in the other, wondering how this mere child, in the span of an hour before she fetched me for breakfast, could envisage this lovely story and then put it in words, and on paper, on my behalf. I’ve heard that truth, creativity, imagination, love, kindness, compassion—are already inside us but not always found, exercised, and shared. This little girl is showing me how.

Helen, on a snowy day last winter.

I finished my coffee. I didn’t feel grumpy anymore. But it had nothing to do with a caffeine fix. Instead, I realized how blessed I was to have this child in my life. Instead of gazing out the window wishing I was splitting firewood or maintaining my motorcycles, I resolved to spend some time on this warm, sunny day exploring with her the pathway to her imagination.

With Helen at her home over the holiday.