Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pappy, Pap and October 4th

October 4th isn't necessarily a good day in my life.  It is the anniversary of the death of both grandfathers.  They died 32 years apart but they both died on October 4th.  I spent some time thinking about Pappy and Pap yesterday.  There were things I hadn't thought about in a long time.

Pappy (my Daddy's dad) died in 1974.  I was a very young girl when he died.  He died during the school day.  My school was within a quarter of a mile from where Pappy and Grandma lived.  During my lunchtime recess, I heard the ambulance that went to their house.  I was a kid.  I didn't think in that moment what a difference that sound indicated for my life.

We kids weren't told that Pappy had died until after school.  As the school bus came around the curve to our bus stop, my brother Matt and I saw our oldest brother waiting for us.  I looked back toward the house, saw Daddy was home already and my uncle's truck was there too.  I knew right then what had happened.  I got off the bus, already crying, saw my brother...a stoic fellow, even in seventh grade...was crying and I ran.  (Where I grew up is back a dirt lane.  It was and is a beautiful place, off the road with lots of room for five kids to grow up.)

I ran back the lane as fast as my short, little six year old legs could carry me.  When I got to our front yard, I saw Daddy and my uncle (his brother) sitting on the porch rail, crying and consoling each other.  I can't really remember anymore if I stopped to hug my dad or not.  I'm sure I did, being a Daddy's girl and all.  I do clearly remember running into the house and seeing my grandmother crying inconsolably on the couch.  My mom, my aunt, our pastor and his wife were all there, trying their best to settle her down.  How does a woman who had just lost her husband of thirty eight years find consolation?  She doesn't.

Pappy had died from his fourth massive coronary while taking his daily after lunch nap.  He had laid down on the davenport (Grandma's name for a sofa) as usual.  About half an hour into his nap, he sat straight up, looked at my grandmother, said her name, laid back down and was gone from this world.  When Grandma checked on him, he was dead.

The following days were filled with potluck meals, friends and family, tears, laughter...all the things that go with losing someone you love.  As a family, we were still recovering from the initial loss of Pappy when my seventh birthday arrived twelve days later.  My birthday that year was not a fun one.  The best thing about my birthday that year was my great aunt had decided to stay for an extended period to comfort and look after my grandmother, who was her little sister.  My great aunt was an marvelous human being.  Every visit was a tremendous treat, even during such a sad time.  She was a retired school teacher who had traveled around the world after she retired.  My great aunt was and still is one of my heroes.

Come forward thirty two years.  I had spent several months 'keeping watch' over my mother's dad, Pap.  He had been in declining health for awhile and didn't like being in his big house by himself at night.  I was off of work on disability.  I couldn't talk, which was a celebrated time in my family.  It didn't let me work though.  My employer at the time did not supply 'something else to do' if you were employed to answer the phone, so I wasn't working.  With my nature for being a vampire, I was the obvious choice to stay with Pap during the overnight hours.

I had a migraine.  I called Pap and asked if he minded if I stayed home because of feeling so miserable.  He said it was no problem.  My uncle lived next door, so if he needed anything, Pap would call him.  I told him thank you, love you and I would see him the next night.  I didn't get to see him the next night.  In the early morning hours of October 4th, 2006, I lost another grandfather to a massive heart attack.

I have to be honest.  I am ever so grateful to the good Lord that I was not there that night.  My cousin's husband, who had been living in the basement apartment, heard the thump of my grandfather's body hitting the floor.  He went upstairs to check on Pap and found him.  He called my uncle.  Again, the process of dealing with death began for my family.  That was, to that point, the worst phone call I had ever received.  Once more the following days were filled with casseroles, condolences, stories and loved ones.  It was kind of, and still is kind of, a blur in my memory.  The thing I remember most is my family getting together after the graveside service.  There was good food, a lot of laughter, quite a few tears and a whole lot of love.  Pap was someone who left a strong and great impression on everyone he met.  The grandkids (myself included) and great grandkids heard stories about Pap that made us laugh so hard that our sides hurt.

My family has always dealt with death by sharing tales and stories of our lost loved one.  We find comfort in re-living the escapades that made that person who they were in life.   Both of my grandfathers were characters.  I get my unique personality from a very strong family history of characters.  I'm proud of my family's collective history.  If I think about, maybe someday I will write a blog about some of the people I have found I am related to...including a current Hollywood actress; a United States president; a Civil War general; some high society blue bloods from the City of Brotherly Love; some Pilgrims; a moonshiner and an executed murderer.  Yeah, I've got an interesting family history.

Like I said previously, October 4th is not necessarily a good day in my life, but it is a day that makes me remember some of what makes me who I am.  I miss my grandfathers.  I miss my grandmothers.  I miss my dad.  I carry them with me, inside of me, every day.  They are a part of who I am, the good and the bad.  My history has helped build me, but it isn't all that I am.  It is the base that I now build on to become who I want to be, who I am determined to be.

I think Pappy and Pap would be proud of me.      

No comments:

Post a Comment