Monday, March 28, 2011

"When an Old Man Dies, a Library Burns Down."

I have frequently heard my husband quote the African proverb that goes, "When an old man dies, a library burns down." I always poke fun at the cheesiness of the quote but secretly wonder where he learned it from since my man is clearly not from Africa.

On Saturday, my husband, in-laws, and I trekked to San Diego to celebrate my grandfather-in-law's 90th birthday. 90. Wow! After lunch at a Chinese restaurant, we brought Grandpa back home. As we were milling around the house chatting and doing who knows what else, my eyes were drawn to a small, cork bulletin board on the wall where a tiny, inconspicuous newspaper clipping bore the words, "'When an old man dies, a library burns down.' -African proverb" Ah ha! I had pinpointed the source of the quote.

For the rest of our visit, we sat around a table eating cake and hearing Grandpa's stories. I'd like to lie and say that we were an eager little family begging him to give us little pages from his library of experience, but we were in fact just trying to win a game. My father-in-law had typed up many questions about Grandpa's life. We each in turn took a stab at the answer and then Grandpa would tell us whether we were right or wrong.

BIG 90? or BIG go? Who knows!

Through this game, we learned many tidbits including that he took Grandma to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon, that the honking huge Cadillac of his youth was fueled by gas that cost only a few cents per gallon, that his favorite book of the Bible is Romans, and that the best thing before sliced bread was the ice truck that came around selling ice blocks for their pre-electric fridges. The driver would often chip off a little chunk of ice for the kids to eat. After bread became sliced, the price per loaf rose from 5 cents to 7 cents. Talk about tough times. I love the stories of old people, and it was so special to be able to sit around listening to him and laughing with him.

On Tuesday, Grandpa passed away.

That night, as we reflected on his death, Michael and I were so grateful that we carved out the time last Saturday to blow the dust off of some of Grandpa's old volumes to take a peak at a few pages of his life. Since I've only had a few short years to begin getting to know Grandpa from a visit here and a visit there, it is truly a gift from God to have spent one of his last days celebrating his life. And for that, I am very grateful.


  1. Oh Christie... Praying for you...

  2. Christie, reading this today, it's been 3 years! I'm glad you all were able to spend his 90th with him and, to quote your anniversary words, to let him "be known" - that is one of the blessings we all hunger for. Aunt Jackie

  3. Why would you think that the African proverb is "cheesy"


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