Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Living out loud.

It has been a little while since my last post-I have had a rough week. Along with some minor, pesky health problems, I just flew back from Kentucky on Thanksgiving day. I found out the week before that my Papaw had passed away. I was able to fly back to be with my family, but it was very tough. I have lived away from my grandparents for most of my life, since I was 4. I have seen them once a year at least since then, but that isn't much in the world of grandparents. I think the hardest thing about going back was hearing stories from people who saw him all the time. I know this may sound selfish, but it was sad to hear their stories, knowing I didn't get the same amount of time with him. I have been struggling a little bit to really remember much, but here are some memories I do recall-

My Papaw was a quite man, but not all the time. I remember once when we were getting ready to fly home from seeing them one year my Mamaw and Papaw took us to the airport. This was back in the days before 9/11 when people could walk you to your gates and wave goodbye as your plane took off the runway. Papaw sat with our family while we waited to board. On this particular occasion, I don't remember much of what was said, but I remember him giving my sister a pocket watch and me a Swiss army knife. I can't remember why, but it still meant a lot to me. I kept it above my bed in a little jewelry box for the longest time. A few years later when we moved I lost that Swiss army knife and I remember crying like I had lost my best friend.

Another time we came to visit, right after he had undergone chemo, he had lost all his hair. He wore this bright orange toboggan. I'm not sure how anyone could forget that, but I had until I saw a picture while my sister and I were making a collage. I remember that Christmas, all our families got together and bought him this golf club that I guess he had wanted. I remember everyone opening all their presents and when we got down to the very last one, you could tell in his face that he hadn't expected anything, that he was just so pleased with the fact that all of his family was there and he was healthy and happy. I can clearly see my Uncle Jim say, "Clint, what's that behind the couch?" just like in A Christmas Story or something. My Papaw looked and then hesitantly got up and walked over and pulled out the box, and as he began to unwrap it his eyes began to fill with tears. Tears of joy, yes, but I'm sure they weren't really for this golf club. I think he was overwhelmed by the situation. By the love in the room. We all loved my Papaw so much, and he could feel it and was overcome by it in that moment. Plus it was a pretty awesome golf club.....so I'm told. =)

That same year, and in another airport, as we sat waiting for our plane yet again, my Papaw began to tell me stories from when he was in the Navy-of all the port he was in, all the people he met, how he had even been to Hawaii which was where I had travelled the preceding summer and now live. I am not sure why, but that conversation meant so much to me. Maybe it was his intention-it felt like he had a new lease on life and he wanted to really share his experiences. Or maybe it was just the fact that this man that I knew only as my Papaw, my dad's dad, had just told me about his life-a life I knew nothing about. Either way, it stuck with me.

Even though we lived far away, I feel like I got some great moments with my Papaw. I can still remember being in kindergarten and riding the bus home, knowing my Mamaw and Papaw were at home waiting for me. I would get off the bus and see their car and run from the bus all the way to the front door where they were waiting for me.

One story that I think all the kids in our family knew was the one about how he lost his pointer finger. At his funeral, my cousin Amy got up and told the story, and I had to laugh out loud because it rang so true. A long time ago, my Papaw lost his pointer finger. I remember being a kid and being kind of scared of it-I had never seen a severed appendage before. But I asked him, just like any curious child how he had lost it. He told me that when he was a kid he used to pick his nose and one day he was picking his nose when all of a sudden a booger chomped down on his finger and ate it right off! I never actually knew what happened and even though I knew booger monsters didn't exist, part of me just accepted that that was how my Papaw lost his finger. Papaw always was a practical joker.

My Papaw was a very special man. Anyone who has ever met him can attest to that. I know everyone says that after people pass away, but he really was. I have been blessed not once, but twice with 2 amazing Papaws, and I know God must have a special place in Heaven for them. even though I didn't get to see him very much, I feel like I still got a glimpse into the man my grandfather was by the man my father is-hard working, always there to encourage, and always there to make a joke. I think that if my Papaw had half of my Dad's sense of humor he must have been a very funny man. As I listened to my Aunt Leisa read her letter to him, as she talked about how he coached her teams and how he was the best dad, I thought about my Dad and how he was just like my Papaw. So even though I struggle in my memories of my Papaw, I feel like he lives on in my dad, in my uncle and in my aunt. That's his legacy-to all their faults(they will all tell you they have none, too) they are some of the best, most well intentioned people you could ever meet. My Papaw lives on in them and the world is better for it.

I want to continue to live my life in light of the lessons I learned from my Papaw. Life is too short to be sad, too short to be mad, and too short not to tell someone that you love them. Hug the people you love and there's always time for a sense of humor.

I love you Papaw.