What do a suit, a wooden donkey, and an old ash try all have in common? To anyone else most likely nothing, to me they hold memories of two of my favorite men God placed in my life….my grandfathers better known as my Papaws.
When I was younger both of my parents worked so my brother and I spent most of our days after school and over summer break at my dad’s parents house. We lived in walking distance to my grandparents so if I was not at home you could lay money on it that I was at my grandparents house. We spent our days exploring the outdoors, playing card games such as Canasta and Rummy, helping papaw Luster in his garden, helping mamaw with supper,and riding in the back of his old pickup truck. They are some of my fondest memories. My childhood was pretty awesome.
The summer I turned fourteen my beloved mamaw passed away. I’ve talked about her before, we named our youngest daughter after her. Up until that point I had never seen my Papaw Luster cry. That is a imagine that will forever be in my heart. The day we laid my mamaw to rest my Papaw became sick. We all assumed it was fatigue from the week he had endured but quickly found out it was cancer. I can remember my mamaw always saying she could not live without my Papaw. I would like to think she knew he was sick and and went before him to get things ready.
That’s where the ash tray and the wooden donkey come in. He had smoked most of his life, I recall him telling us a story once and I beleive he said he was 14 when he picked up the habit. Every morning his alarm clock would go off at 7am and by 7:10 he was having his first cigarette. We even helped him roll his own cigarettes when money was tight. He would put a wrapper in the top of the donkey fill it with Bugler tobacco,close the lid, push down on the donkeys ear and just like that a cigarette would pop out the donkeys butt (looking back that should have been a sign that smoking was bad who wants to smoke anything that comes from a donkeys butt??) We didn’t think much of it until the doctors told him to quite or the cigarettes would kill him. He did stop smoking for us, but the damage was already done. One of his most powerful life lessons to me was to never start the habit, and to this day I have kept my promise to him. I miss him just as much today as I did in my teen years, more so most days. He never got to see me finish school, get married, or meet my kids. I hope somehow I am making him proud today.
Yesterday marked the four year anniversary of my Papaw Wilbur’s passing. It’s still hard to beleive it’s been four years. Having a grandparent around in your thirties is a blessing. As kids we would go up on Saturday nights so we could see all of our cousins. We would play The Dukes of Hazzard, or go swimming in the river, run wild and free in the fields, or play hide-and-seek around the chicken coops from sun up till sun down. We would gather at their house one week out of the summer so we all could go to vacation bible school. As I got older papaw and mamaw moved to town. I spent many days with my cousins walking down to the 7/11 to buy candy bars and Dr Pepper (yes we were THAT cool) Papaw was at my wedding, and saw my older kids kids grow up to be fine young adults. He even got to to meet a few of our Littles. As he got older he excepted Jesus into his life and we could spend hours talking about the Bible. He always wore his Sunday best to church, which is were the suit comes in.
When we were thinking about becoming foster parents I asked him what he thought. His words to me “Some people are put on this earth to be doctors or lawyers and some are put here to be moms. You young lady were meant to be a mom, a great mom” With his blessing and his promise to accept any and all our foster kids as his great grandkids we started off on a life changing journey.
He loved to hunt and I am thankful my oldest son and dad shared that love with him. Every hunting season for as long as I can remember the men folk of my family load up and drive up to their hunting camp. Male bonding at its finest. I never dreamt four years ago would be papaws last trip. My son, my dad, my uncle, and papaw were all doing what they loved when out of nowhere papaw had a heart attack/stroke and was gone. The only comfort, besides Jesus, I found was knowing he was doing what he loved with the ones he loved. And I am thankful for that.
My dad, son, my brother and nephew are at hunting camp right now and I like to think papaw Wilbur and my uncle are in heaven looking over them, laughing with them and still enjoying their guy time as they have always done.
All of this brings me to this morning. I find myself in my closet hugging an old suit and holding an ash tray and and laughing at a wooden donkey. Tears run down my face as I share my day with these two wonderful men. I talk with them and tell them how I miss them and tell them about my day. I ask them if I’m doing this parenting thing ok, or if they think I’m in over my head. I tell them I miss home and miss my family there. I ask them to guide me and to watch over my children. I smile at wonderful memories and laugh as I replay hunting stories from them both. I sigh because I would give anything to have them hug me one more time and hear them say Crissy your doing just fine. Just another morning chat with my Papaws to make this day of mine just fine. I LOVE OUR TALKS. I may not have them here with me physically but I know they are always me. And when I surround myself with the few things I have of theirs I feel their presents even stronger. Thank you both for visiting me in my dreams. You always know when to come.
From our beautiful chaos to yours take time to remember those loved ones that have gone ahead of us. Talk with them, laugh with them and share a joyful tear for they are still alive in our hearts.