Let me tell you about my Papaw.
No, I’m not going to tell you about the cancer or the surgeries or the many battles with pneumonia. I’m going to tell you about Papaw and the things he loved. I may not do him justice since this is just a small sliver of who he was as seen by me, but here goes. 🙂
Papaw loved people. I’m not gonna lie, we may not have always had the best conversations. This was due to the fact that he was incredibly hard of hearing–practically deaf. Conversations with Papaw often went like this:
Me: “It’s warm outside today.”
Me: “It’s warm outside today!”
Papaw: “Who’s gonna die today?!”
Me: “IT’S. WARM. OUTSIDE. TODAY!”
Papaw: “Ohhhh. Yeah!”
Somehow he overcame the boundaries of hearing problems and had many friends. To say that he never met a stranger is an understatement. You couldn’t take him anywhere without finding him cornering a stranger and asking if they liked Bluegrass.
Not only did he love to meet new people, he loved to tell you about them.
Papaw: “Do you know (insert name here)?”
Me: *oh boy* “No…”
Papaw: “You’ve never heard of (insert name here) from (insert town here)?!”
Me: *inwardly sighs* “No…”
Papaw: “Well, (insert name here) loves (insert hobby here) and is related to (insert another name here) and says (insert random fact here) and…” etc etc etc
Me: *MAKE IT STOP!*
Papaw loved food.
Some people eat to live, but Papaw lived to eat! He loved food so much that Grandma took to hiding candy from him. When the grandkids would ask for it, she’d sneak us to that week’s hiding place and make us promise not to tell Papaw. It didn’t matter though. Papaw was clever and found it anyway. Even at the end of his life when he could no longer swallow without aspirating his food, he’d sneak into the kitchen while Grandma was sleeping and get himself a treat.
Papaw loved music–bluegrass music specifically. Remember how I said he was hard of hearing? Well, that didn’t stop him from sawing away on his beloved fiddle. He may not have been able to hear the rhythm (or even know what song he was on at times), but he played with the passion of a concert violinist.
He loved music so much that he would rebuild fiddles and even have weekly music parties at his autobody shop. Tuesday nights were known for many years as Warren’s Music Party nights. There were no special qualifications to join the party either. Didn’t matter if you played an instrument well or even played at all, you simply had to show up (and be familiar with Orange Blossom Special).
And as if that wasn’t enough music, he even played fiddle in his family’s Bluegrass Gospel group.
Papaw loved his family. He loved to hold babies, fall asleep with babies on his lap, and feed babies things that babies aren’t supposed to eat. He may or may not have fed his 3-week-old daughter pizza, and it wasn’t unusual to find chocolate drool coming from a baby’s mouth.
When my aunt was a baby, Papaw made her a bottle in the middle of the night. Sounds innocent enough, only Papaw thought a plain bottle wasn’t good enough… and so he slipped some maple syrup inside. The next day Grandma exclaimed, “Warren, there’s something wrong with this baby! She has horrible diarrhea and it smells just like maple syrup!”
I remember many rides in a wagon attached to the back of Papaw’s mower. We’d bounce along his yard and across the road to the creek. And if he wasn’t taking kids for wagon rides, he’d take us out for tractor rides.
He also enjoyed taking us camping, perfecting Cub Scout derby cars, and letting us brush his hair. Actually, I’m not sure that he enjoyed that, but he let me tangle my little brush in his hair anyway.
Papaw loved God. Papaw was a good, Christian man despite a rough start. He convinced Grandma to marry him by promising that he’d start going to church with her. When he failed to make good on his promise after the wedding, he admitted that he’d only said that to get her to marry him!
But after several years, Papaw started a sincere relationship with the Lord. He enjoyed morning Bible study with Grandma, playing music for the Lord, and leading prayer at every family dinner.
We loved Papaw and still do and always will. We all knew we couldn’t keep him forever and were surprised we had gotten to have him as long as we had after the battle with cancer. While letting him go was necessary, it was not easy. But it’s comforting to know he is no longer suffering.
And even though he left us, he didn’t leave us empty handed. He left us with mounds of pictures and mountains of memories. He left us with hearts full of love which is the best inheritance a kid can ever get. I hope that I can do the same for my family when my time comes.