Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ode to Papaw

(From March 2008)

My grandfather was a remarkable man.  Had he not been a child of the Depression, he might have had the opportunity to go to college.  The Navy had the good sense to steal him away from the Army following an aptitude test.  My grandfather served in WWII as an electrician who maintained electrical systems on ships. 

My grandmother loves to relate a story about how my grandfather was home on leave one time and stomped a skunk.  He and my grandmother had attended a dance and my grandfather proceeded to get very drunk...which led to his stomping the skunk.  Needless to say, the skunk won the battle; for my grandfather was very odiferous following that incident.  To make matters worse, he had been in uniform and so he had to return to his unit smelling extremely putrid.  My grandmother and great-grandmother had a meritable idea that did not prove successful.  Just before my grandfather left to return to the base, my grandmother doused his uniform with a perfume called "Evening in Paris."  This only made matters worse, but years later this story became the source of guaranteed laughter whenever it was shared.  

My grandfather went on to own several retail businesses, the last being a grocery store.  I spent many hours in that store playing and just having fun.  As a teen, I also worked there.  My grandfather’s last career before he retired was as the City Inspector.  He thoroughly enjoyed that job.

"Papaw", as we called him, was a kind and gentle man.  He could be loud and raucous in a heated debate or when telling a humorous story.  I never knew of anyone who did not like him.  Children gravitated to him.  He had one of those magical personalities that always attracted kids.  It didn’t hurt that he kept a pocket protector full of pens, notepads and gadgets. He also could almost always be found in possession of a new roll of Certs candy. 

I have many stories about his kindness and generosity.  He and my grandmother helped raise my sister and me.  We are both incredibly lucky to have had such a wonderful man influencing our lives.

In the last years of his life, my grandfather was diagnosed with dementia.  All who have had loved ones with an organic brain disease, understand how tragic it is to watch the decline of those loved ones.  Yet, my grandfather didn’t seem to suffer much--he had periods of intensely bad health, but he managed to rally and return to his baseline.  Ironically, he was opening presents on his birthday when his time came.  Those who were able to be with him during those last precious hours related that his passing was very peaceful.

I will miss my grandfather immensely, but I find solace in knowing that he lived his life well and was honored and respected by all who knew him.

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