Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew

Warning: very long post

Today would have been my grandpa's 80th birthday.  I don't talk about him often because to this day I cannot even think about him without crying my eyes out (I am doing it now you just can't see me).  He was born in a small town in Tennessee and he always called it "Down Home".  Whenever we would go there he would say, "We are going down home.".  People from the south will understand that.  I cannot possibly tell you the impact this man had on my life in such a short time.  He was my rock.  He was everything to me.  He loved me like no one else in my life ever loved me.  I cannot visit his grave.  I cannot speak of him.  I cannot look at pictures of him or I am a mess for days (so be prepared those who have to see me today).

He was just an ordinary man and if you ever met him you would probably just walk away thinking he was a nice guy.  But he was so much more.  He taught me about sacrifice.  He taught me to put others above myself.  He is everything I hope that I can be.  When he died my faith was shaken to the core because I had never lost anyone so dear to me before.  I was 5 months pregnant with my first son and he died just a few days before I was to find out what I was having even though we didn't know the sex, he always called him his great-grandson.

When I lost him I knew my life would change forever.  The comfort and peace and safety that I felt was gone.  He was the one I always ran to.  He would always tell me how I would never know how much he loved me.  He would say that he loved me a whole passel and I never knew what a passel was.

I would ask him how he was doing and he would say, "fair to middling".  He said all kinds of things in a funny way.   Aluminum - he could never say it.  And vomit - he would always say vomic.  And idea - it was never idea it was idy (pronounced long i then "d" then y) - but I think that was part of the southern accent thing.  The best thing he would say was "So long". If we were leaving and I said bye, he would say, "No Gret, not good-bye, so long."  Good bye meant gone forever, but so long meant I would see him again.  Oh how I hold that so close to my heart that I will see him again.  I want it to be Jesus I want to see but I long to see my Grandpa again.

Everyone should have a man like that in their lives, everyone.  He's the reason I love Tennessee and bacon and green grass and gardens and Ronald Reagan and he's the reason I listen to talk radio and am a Conservative.  He's the reason I know what an Alice Chalmer is and that collard greens are best cooked with vinegar and bacon grease.  He's the reason I love to cook and that I make biscuits and gravy.

And pretty much every gift we would give to him, before he opened it, he would ask us, "Does it have green paint on it?"  Because he loved John Deere.

He also loved willow trees.  Every place that he moved he would plant a willow tree and as soon as we get those acres that we plan to live on someday I am planting me some willow trees.

He would tell me the best stories of when he was growing up.  He was a little bit of a trouble maker back in the day.  He only graduated the 8th grade and he would always say how he did go to high school.  He went in the front door and right out the back.

My husband and I worked at Wal-mart while we both went to college and we met there.  And he would always say to us, "You can find anything at Wal-mart" (including spouses).

He had 4 granddaughters and he would always call us his "boys".  We always liked it.  And his middle name was "Seay" pronounced "C" and he hated it and thought it was the stupidest name ever and he gave his son the middle name of just C. - no name just the initial.   And I loved it and thought it was neat and asked his mother where she got it from and she said it was the last name of a man in town and she just liked it. 

It is strange but he could read me like a book, like no one else.  He knew what I was thinking sometimes and what I was worrying about.

He loved going grocery shopping after he retired because he did not sit still.  He loved Aldi and I still have a hard time when I go in there because I think about him.  I used to make fun of him because he would buy enough canned goods for 3 families and enough paper towels and toilet paper to last for months. 

When you are young you just kind of don't think about death that much.  And I just never thought he would not be a part of my life.  Not very long before his heart attack he looked at me with tears in his eyes and I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I'm not worried about me, but I'm worried about you Gret when I'm gone."  That is the man he was.

I told a story at his funeral about when my grandma was pregnant and really sick and she needed some medicine and back then you could go to the local pharmacist and buy things on credit, but this pharmacist would not let my grandpa have any more medicine (they found out later that his dad had run up a bill and wasn't paying on time) and he had to go home empty handed to a very sick wife.  Years later that same pharmacist needed blood because he was dying and my grandpa was one of the first in line to donate blood to that man.

See why I loved him?  He would sit in the most uncomfortable chair in the room so that everyone else would be comfortable.  He would wait until we had all already got our food and some had even had seconds before he would get anything to eat.  He was that kind of man.

When any of us would complain about having to go to work, he would say, "No, you shouldn't complain about going to work, you should say I GET to go to work and be thankful for it."

When he took vacations from work (they were just forced plant shutdowns or he would have never taken a vacation), he would go to work for a friend who owned a farm near where he lived.  He loved driving combines.

He liked to go to Amos (close to Lafayette, Tennessee) and he had an old horse named Paul and he loved to farm and he hated wearing ties and he loved to plant a big garden and he liked to take drives and look at bean fields and he was the greatest man I ever knew and I miss him


  1. Wow. Seriously, wow! This was completely beautiful my friend. The love you had/have for him is spilled all over this post.
    He sounds like such a wonderful grandpa. I would have loved to have had a relationship like that with mine but the only one I knew died when I was 13 and I never got to be with him much as we lived in Florida and they lived in Maine.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I can see how he was a man who helped shaped who you are.

  2. This was really sweet, Gretchen. It's only been 3 days for me, but I miss my grandpa dearly already.

  3. I'm bawling right now. That really summed up who grandpa was. I loved hiim so much too and still miss him so much. I dream about him often. It's bittersweet because it hurts so bad to see him again because I want it to be real. But it's wonderful too because I get to see him again. My last dream I had about him we were at a family reunion and he poked his head in the room I was in and said there she is! With a big smile on his face. And he said I was looking for my best friend! He always called me that. And I flew into his arms and hugged him so tight. I can't wait to see my best friend again.

  4. Such a nice tribute to your Grandpa. I live with my grandpa now and I can understand the special relationship between a grandpa and a granddaughter. I found your blog through the sweet as sugar cookies baking linky. I may try your chocolate chip cookies!


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