Note (because I like to leave notes): I have, for my entire life, been troubled by the spellings of Mamma and Pappa (pronounced ma-maw and pa-paw). So for purposes of this most official blog entry, I looked back at a Christmas card my Mamma sent me and spelled like she did. Don’t argue with how she spelled it – she wasn’t often wrong. ;)
I was thinking the other day about Father's Day - who to buy cards for, who to buy gifts for, etc. Every time I buy cards I think about an incident that occurred with my Pappa. Right after my grandmother passed away we were at his house helping to go through all of the stuff they had collected over the years, and he pulled out a box of Father's Day cards. I think every Father's Day card I'd ever sent him was in that box. He flipped through it quickly and said, "This whole box is trash."
I was devastated! - for about half a second. Then I had to laugh at the practicality of this man I hold so dear. What good were those cards? We were staring into a future without my grandmother. In the big scheme of things, those were just pieces of paper. They had served their purpose. They were no longer important. He was right – they were trash.
So on this Father's Day, I have decided that instead of sending a card to my grandfather, I'm going to send him a thank you letter for all of the great memories he's given me. This is it.
My earliest and perhaps best memory of Pappa is musical - not surprising if you know him. He loves music, and I must have recognized that when I was about 2 days old. In fact, he made copies of most of his enormous collection of cassette tapes, I think so that he could listen to the copies and not wear out the originals. Then he built shelves for the tapes, meticulously labeled them, and filed the cassettes on the shelves in alphabetical order. I was in awe of that cassette tape collection. In fact, I remember saving my first two allowances to have enough money to buy my first tape to begin my own collection. (It was Lionel Ritchie's Dancing on the Ceiling, but we don't necessarily have to go there.) Even more impressively, he typed up the lyrics to most of the songs he had on cassette and filed them in spiral notebooks.
Now, this little diatribe about musical organization is to bring about my favorite activity from when I was little. I would stay a week or two every summer with Mamma and Pappa, and every night (or at least in my memory it was every night) he would play his guitar, and we would sing together until I was hoarse. Of course, I would never admit to being hoarse because then we might have to stop.
We sang old hymns - like Beulah Land and The Old Rugged Cross - and old country songs, all of which I loved. I was always so proud when I knew the words without looking at the carefully typed lyrics. My very favorite song to sing with Pappa was Seven Spanish Angels by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. I still listen to that song regularly because it just makes me happy (Yes, I realize it's a sad song - I'm talking about memories here!)
My next favorite thing about my Pappa is hearing him pray. He was a Baptist minister for many years, and I'm sure I've heard him preach many times, but there's nothing like hearing him pray. I don't know another person on earth capable of that kind of prayer. It made an impression on me even as a small child that this big bear of a man in his loud, booming voice humbled himself before God in the company of others. He prayed at my wedding, and aside from the getting married part, that could be my favorite thing about the whole show. God was there. And God is here in my home. I know because my Pappa asked him to be. There's such comfort in that.
I could go on for years about him, but I won't because he wouldn't. I will mention, however, how much he loved - and still loves - my grandmother. They were married over 50 years, and when she was alive I knew that he knew how special she was. I could just tell that however much I loved her, he understood and maybe loved her even more than I did. When I was kid, that was a pretty big realization.
When Mamma died suddenly, it was like the world stopped for everyone, I think. I had this moment of wondering how anything would ever work right again. But I saw him stand up in his faith and profess that God had a plan. That's likely the only reason any of us found peace. To an avid reader like myself, theirs is the best-written love story of all time. Now he lives with a beautiful portrait of her on the wall and over 50 years of memories, and someday he will be with her again. I can only pray for such a lifetime of dedication to family.
My Pappa is an amazing man of a generation that could certainly show us a thing or two about honor and strength and family. I look at my boys, and somewhere in the back of my mind I see them as his legacy. I suppose that's what Father's Day is all about. Honoring those who, through their blood, sweat and tears, make us who we are.