Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Papaw

Today is my grandfather's 82nd birthday as well as my grandparents 64th wedding anniversary. (That's right they got married on his birthday!) When I talked to my grandmother this afternoon I asked what advice she had about marriage since they have been married for so long. She told me, "You have to be patient...very patient. And you have to think before you speak. You'll get yourself in trouble if you don't." Mamaw, I will remember that for future use.

They are not followers of the blog nor do they probably even know what a blog is. However, I do hope he has a happy birthday and they have a wonderful anniversary! This post is specifically dedicated to my grandfather on his birthday! (I actually began this post after returning from Texas in July.)

The larger than life man I once knew, is only a shadow of himself. I still remember him as he was 20 years ago. He towered over me, but he was not intimidating. He sang all the time. He made me laugh. He had a steel trap for a mind. He was a self-made man with a work ethic that puts the majority of us to shame. The dark hair has turned snow white. The large shoulders are a little slumped. He is quiet. You can often find himself off to the side, out of the crowd. He doesn't like it when his routine is interrupted and doesn't deal well with change. It isn't fair. He told me so himself. Slowly but surely he is being robbed. Not of his youth, but of his mind. The thief is Alzheimer's.

He is one of those men who could charm anyone. I have extremely fond memories of going to downtown Houston and visiting him at work, counting cows at the ranch, and helping haul hay. He always told me I could do anything that I put set my mind to do. He was always one of my biggest fans and in return I am one of his.

Born in a rural town, the oldest child of sharecroppers, he came from humble beginnings. His birth certificate says that he was born 4 miles north of Iola, TX. I have always found that strange, but he explains that was where their house was located. He moved to Houston when his parents left the country for my great-grandfather to take a job at the docks as a long shore man.

He met his wife while still in high school and married her on his 18th birthday. Neither were old enough, so their mothers had to apply for their marriage license. Just a few weeks after their wedding he was shipped out to serve in World War 2. It would be over 2 years before they would see each other again. They have told stories about how hard it was when he first returned. Both had grown up and become adults during his time overseas. It was their faith in God and perseverance that has brought them through 64 years of marriage.

I could tell so many stories, but none seem quite appropriate. There was the time that I got sick in the elevator or when he taught me how to bottle feed a calf. Or the time he caught me steaming open mail. I still don't really know if he believed me when I told him that I was making tea. During high school I began mowing his lawn every week and he paid me $20. It always made me laugh that he helped me. He is the one that taught me to drive and then several years later attempted to teach me how to drive a standard.

I had great plans to ask him many other questions on this last trip, but it was not possible. Alzheimer is winning the war. There is nothing that any of us can do. We must sit back and watch the disease take over his mind. It isn't fair. The hardest part is knowing that is next generation will never know him like my brothers and I did. There won't be trips to the ranch or driving lessons as soon as you turned fifteen. It will be up to those of us who knew him in his prime to tell the younger ones the stories...just like he has told us stories of his parents and grandparents.

He will always be one of my heroes. A man of integrity and devoted to his family. He is my Papaw!


MLM said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful man and also a wonderful tribute. You have been blessed to have your papaw.

Jane said...

Thanks, mlm. He is a great man. Apparently my older brother and sister-in-law also got teary. Not my intention, but must confess that I got a little teary just writing it.

MLM said...

You're very blessed. I haven't had too much success in the way of grandfathers, and I must admit, I've looked for "substitute" grandpas all over the place (usually my older male professors). Yours sounds like a great one!

PrincessK said...

Jane: What a sweet and deserving tribute to your grandfather. Your grandparents remind me of my mom and dad and as you know my mom also had do feel robbed but I guess we have been blessed to have them as long as we have.

Meems said...

i really enjoyed reading about your papaw. i know both of your grandparents have had a profound affect on your life. for that you are richly blessed. i believe it is the way God meant for it to be. family surrounded by family... each one connected and each one imparting the gifts and love they have been given by those that have gone before them.

putting this sort of thing in writing is sometimes the best way to recount the goodness of one so dear.

thanks for sharing it with us.

Jane said...

Sorry, I took a little break from commenting.

mlm- I am only close to the one set of g-parents, but I am incredibly thankful for them. My brothers and I are blessed and they are great!

PrincessK- I have thought the same thing. I am definitely trying to make the most of the time left.

Meems- Family is important...they drive you crazy, but you love them any way. I am very excited that Jacob is going to have a chance to grow up around both sets of g-parents. I hope he has just as blessed as I was.