Saturday, August 13, 2011


Note:  My nephew asked if I had plans to blog about this, and I told him no, it felt too personal to send out to the internet.  Then I got home and while lying awake at night, I began composing this post in my head.  It wasn't until I sat down and typed it all out that I finally got decent rest.  I guess writing is a bit theraputic for me.  Then I let it sit for a while, still not planning to hit the 'publish post' button.  But I don't feel that I can get back to my normal, light hearted posting without publishing this post first.  It would feel fake, and I don't like being fake.

On July 24, 2011, at about 10:30 a.m., I got a phone call that changed my world.

My mother and nephew were here, and we were dressed to head to the beach for the day.  She had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get in touch with my daddy, and she had called my brother to go check on him.  When the phone rang, I saw my parents' number, and assumed it was Daddy with some smart remark about us being worried about him for no reason.  Instead, I heard my brothers voice, telling me he had found Daddy on the floor.  I didn't need to ask any questions, I knew from the tone of his voice, that our daddy was gone.

To say I handled it poorly is an understatement.  I have always dreaded having to tell my children that one of their grandparents has passed away.  I've tried to come up with comforting words to use to break it to them gently.  Instead, they, and my nephew and my mom, found out about Grandaddy by hearing me crying and screaming, "NO!" into the phone.

My brother was trying to calm me down, reminding me that I had to be strong for Mama because she was here with me.  I pulled myself together a little and got Mama to sit down because I was afraid she was going to faint.  Then I called my husband and told him I needed him to come home.  As soon as he got here, I left to drive my mother and my nephew, who lives with her, the three hours back to their house.  My husband packed up the kids and followed a few minutes later.  It was the longest three hours of my life.  I wanted to hurry up and get there to be with my brother and little sister, who were together at the house, but the closer I got, I just wanted to turn around and come back home and pretend nothing had happened.

My daddy was a lot of things. 

He was stubborn, opinionated, always right even when it was clear to everyone, including himself, that he was wrong.  He loved to tease people, especially my mother, and sometimes took things a little too far.  He had a short fuse and a quick temper. 

He was also honest and caring and generous.  He believed a handshake when making a promise was as good as, or better than, a legal contract.  If he told you he was going to do something, he did it.  He was loyal to his friends and family, and helped strangers out when he saw someone in need. 

He was a big man, and rather intimidating.  He always insisted on meeting any boys I dated before we went out.  He made sure to shake their hand, and they all mentioned how big his hands were the moment we left the house.  I spoke with a friend just the other day.  We never dated, but we've known each other for thirty-three years.  He mentioned the size of Daddy's hands and compared it to his three year old shaking hands with any other grown up.

Oh, and Daddy also made sure he was seated in the chair directly in front of his gun cabinet.  The boys knew not to mess with me or my sisters.
Daddy was a sportsman.  He loved to hunt and fish.  Almost every morning and evening during deer season, he could be found in a tree in the woods waiting for the perfect buck to come along.  Of course, sometimes those bucks were in his dreams as he would often fall asleep in his stand.  If the son's of any of his friends wanted to go, and their own daddy couldn't take them, Daddy would offer to let them tag along.

He loved sports of all kinds.  He won several awards while in high school, and he coached my brother in little league softball and football.  He was often stopped by grown men he had coached as kids.  They all wanted to share how much Daddy had meant to them. He went to almost every sporting event at my old high school, whether one of his kids or grand kids was playing or not.  He adopted countless kids at that school, encouraging them and being there for them with a hug or handshake at the end of the game. 

He always stood in the same spot to watch home football games.  I don't know how I'll stand the thought of someone else standing in that spot by the fence near the ten yard line. 

He was a die hard Braves fan, even through the bad years.  I learned everything I know about baseball, which is a good bit, you know, for a girl, while watching games with him in the 90's.  His reaction when Francisco Cabrera's hit allowed Sid Bream to score the winning run in the 1992 National League Championship Series is a memory that will stay with me forever.

He was awarded a football scholarship, but when his own father had a heart attack, he left college and came home to help support his family.  He eventually worked his way through college.  Over the past years, he and my mom built a successful, respected, agricultural/commercial construction company from the ground up.

Over 400 people showed up for visitation the night before the funeral.  We stood for about three hours as a constant stream of people paid their last respects.  My mom was blown away at all the love and support and the sheer number of people.  I knew there would be a lot of people there, everyone respected my daddy. 

Most of all, I think, he was a grandfather who could not have been more proud of all twelve of his grandchildren.  I lost count of how many people told me how he would light up when he talked about them.  And I am in tears thinking about how much they will miss him.

I am heartbroken that my baby girl won't have any memory of her Grandaddy.  I have heard over and over throughout the last two weeks how he would describe each grandchild, and when he would get to her, he would say, "She is just a joy."  

I have vowed to do everything in my power to make sure my three year old boy doesn't forget him.  He doesn't understand what has happened.  When I mention Grandaddy, he says he's at Grandma's house.  When I tell him Grandaddy is in Heaven with Jesus and the angels, his responses have been, "That's not nice" and "You need to save him".  How do I respond to that?

I feel broken and fragile. 

Like I might explode into a thousand pieces any second.

A dear family friend pointed out that if not for the relationship I had with him, I wouldn't feel the pain now. 

For that I am grateful.



Pajama Mama said...

You did a beautiful job putting your heart to words. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

Karrie said...

I feel broken for you! The pain you must have in your heart, it's unimaginable for me! Prayers for healing for you and your family. Sounds like your dad was so very special and no one can ever take your memories away.
As far as your little guy, first thing that came to mind was how incredibly insightful it is for him to be saying that. However, it would be simple to say he is there because HE IS SAVED. Jesus can heal in a way you can not. Pray to him that he will guide your words when talking to your children. Pray with your kids about all of this.

My mom used to be a part of hospice. There are grievance groups especially for children. Look up your local group. It will be invaluable to the kids!!