The following is a story sent to us by Pam Christian here at the Home Office. It is another wonderful story of the precious elders in our lives.
If you would have asked me 15 years ago about my paternal grandfather “Papa Eddie”, I would have probably said I didn’t know much about him. Most likely due to my parents divorcing when I was around 2 years old, I never spent much time with my father’s side of the family during my childhood. It wasn’t until my oldest daughter Morgan was born in 1998 that I started to visit with them.
As I struggled with the thought of sending my baby to daycare, my paternal grandmother “Granny Rose” informed me she would love to have the opportunity to watch Morgan while I went back to work. This nudged the door open a little more and gave me a chance to gain lost time with a family I didn’t really know.
I have had many conversations about the “Good Ole Days” with my Granny Rose who is now 87, and my Great Aunt Tina who just turned 90. I haven’t however had the chance to sit down and spend personal time with Papa Eddie.
That was until this weekend.
Papa Eddie who will be 90 in September, fell during a vacation to North Carolina, and then fell again when he arrived home. As a result of this second fall, he broke his hip, arm and the doctors confirmed that his prostate cancer has metastasized to his spine. So he doesn’t have to be alone, some of my family members have been staying with him at the hospital, each taking turns when they can. Friday night I had the chance to spend the entire night with him.
I was with him for about 10 minutes when I decided I was going to break the ice. We didn’t really know each other, so someone needed to make this night more comfortable. I pulled out my laptop and began telling him about how I had recently started researching our ancestors online. As I was reading my notes, he confirmed family names, birthdays and locations our family had lived.
I was amazed at his ability to remember all of these details from back in the 1930’s and 40’s. The stories of how he used to take chickens into town (Corbin, KY) to sell during the Great Depression, and how he saw the desperation of parents faces as they begged for food. I heard about the musical abilities of his parents and siblings. They played guitars, mandolins, and fiddles and loved to sing gospel music. The smiles on his face and chuckles coming from his belly made me laugh. He was reliving those moments and I was able to sit and share that with him.
I wanted so dearly to show him the photos I had found of his mother, father and grandparents. Unfortunately he is now blind and can only see shadows. The photo of his daddy was odd; it looked like he was winking at me. Before I could ask, he said “My daddy didn’t have a left eye, shot it out with a shotgun” How did he know what I was thinking?
The story of his life unfolded as he explained how he quit high school and joined the army in Fort Knox. He worked in the clerical department and very proudly told me he could type 60 words per minute. Before he knew it he was shipping out to Germany. He told me of his overseas travels during WWII, and how he fell in love with my Granny the first time he saw her. I saw his smile turn to sadness when he told me of the day she asked for a divorce.
Papa said he didn’t have any regrets and was so grateful for a wonderful family. Here was this man that earlier looked so pitiful, and now seemed to be coming back to life. Before we knew it we had been talking for about 3 hours and the nurse was shocked he was still awake. I knew he was exhausted and even though I didn’t want it to end, I held his hand and let him fall asleep.
Never did I expect this night to be so memorable. I think God had this planned. He wanted us to get to know each other. Even if it took 38 years.
Pam Christian, Creative Programs & Events