I was born 9 days before my daddy’s 18th birthday. I wish I could tell you he grew up fast, but it didn’t quite work out that way. My mom was 20 and had her own childhood trauma to sort through. Thankfully God knew that they weren’t 100% up to parenting so he gave me the best set of grandparents the world has ever seen. My grandpa was 42 when I was born. His youngest child was 10. She is my aunt by birth, but my big sister and one of my very best friends by happenstance. I spent a lot of my early years with them in a tiny single wide trailer that held all the love in the world. We were right next door to my great grandparents. I remember distinctly walking up the hill to their house in the early morning hours for grits in a wooden bowl with my great grandpa, and sitting in my great grandma’s recliner with her, snuff cans all around.
My grandpa was my hero. He was tall and strong. When I was tiny I remember being toted everywhere by him. Once when I was 8 or 9 he carried me down the hill from his parents and said “girl, you are getting heavier than a sack of taters”, he laughed but I remember panicking thinking he couldn’t carry me anymore. I told him that story when I was in my 30’s, about how I was worried, he then said “that breaks my heart, I would tote you around right now if you would still let me!”.
He loved nothing more, other than Jesus, than his family. He was so proud of the legacy he and grandma created. In 2018 we had a party for them. All the kids, grandkids and great grandkids were there. He smiled so hard that day. At one point when we were taking a group picture he leaned over to grandma and said “look what we did” with the brightest eyes you ever did see.
My grandpa was one of a kind. He made you feel like you were the most important person on earth and in his world every time you walked through the door. He was never too busy to sit down and have a conversation, or to sit down and teach you something. He could play all the blue grass instruments made, except the fiddle, he never could quite grasp that one and it drove him nuts! He was gifted at woodworking. He shared his love and passion of those things with all who would listen.
He never minded spoiling us. I remember once when I was in the hospital with some complications of my amputation, he called to check on me, well actually grandma called and he was listening. I was pouting because I didn’t like the food and momma said I had to eat it anyway. I was mad. About 35 minutes after that call the dominos delivery guy walked in my hospital room. My grandpa had called four hours away and ordered me some pizza. He did stuff like that all the time. He overrode all the parents’ and they didn’t buck him often.
He gave the best advice. When I was 20 I got pregnant as a single girl. I was so nervous to tell them, seeing I was repeating history of my parents…when Grandpa found out he told me to come see him. He took me out on the front porch and said I am going to tell you two things. One, God doesn’t make mistakes. Your baby is not a mistake. Two, don’t you marry that boy because you got pregnant. You wait for the one God sends you. He has the right one for you. That baby was his first great grandchild. He and she shared a love for music and musical talent. She has spent many a day in his music room being schooled by him, listening to old hymns. He was her biggest supporter. When she joined a contemporary praise and worship team at our church, he came down from his own church once a month to listen to her sing. It wasn’t his favorite type of music, but he was so proud of her for using her gifts and he loved to hear her sing, so he came, faithfully. He was right on that waiting thing too. When he met Matthew the second time he leaned in and grinned, “told ya so”. He loved Matthew from day one just like he was one of his, and Matthew the same.
I have shared in some of my adoption blogs that he and grandma are where my foster care heart comes from. I have more aunts and uncles than I can count that are teens that needed love, support and a full belly. My grandparent’s would bring them all in and give them a family to call theirs. When they met Dillon the first time, Grandpa said that baby has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. He told her that every time he saw her after. She loved to crawl up in his lap. He loved that we adopted and again, never lacked in showing how much he loved her as his.
In 2009 he almost died from a complication of a minor surgery. He was telling us the story of it one day and he said when he was laying on that table thinking he was going to die, all of a sudden the places he wanted to go and things he wanted to do weren’t really important anymore, just the people he loved and the moments with them. Later that night I couldn’t sleep thinking about it and I sat down and wrote him and grandma a letter. He put it in his bible and told me I was gonna have to read it at his funeral one day. That day is here and I could never read it out loud, so I will share a small excerpt of it here.
“I want you to know that I love you both more than you could ever know! I have had some crazy ups and downs in my life and you are the one constant, the one place I always feel at home. You are who I think of when I hear people speak of parents and family. You are my motivation to succeed. You are why I have faith in God and that my salvation is real. Grandpa you are why I love music, all kinds, because you taught me to appreciate good music and the instruments that make up that music. You both have taught me the sanctity of marriage, that I was I waited to marry the “one” as opposed to the first one that came along. Your example of family has impressioned me to want to be the best parent that I can be. There are so many things that I have learned from you that I will pass down to my children and their children. “
I have been at a loss for words for days. I am so thankful that I KNOW where he is and I KNOW that I will see him again. Even so though, the thought of things without him here are gut wrenching. He was such a giant presence in all of our lives, it just leaves a really big hole without him here.
When you visit grandma and grandpa they always walk you out when you leave. They stand in the driveway, make sure you buckle, they kiss and hug you goodbye and they wave until you pull out. Grandpa always says”if you must rush off, you must rush back”. I feel that so heavy this week, as I anxiously await a sweet reunion in Heaven.