Poppa and Father's Day
One of my early memories as a child was visiting with my grandparents in Hillsboro, Texas. Snow in the Hill Country of Texas is very rare. So, it was one of those rare mornings when we woke up to discover that it had snowed. It was my first snow, and I remember running outside so excited.
My grandfather had a small ranch. He needed to go check the cattle, and I bundled up and headed out with him. For whatever reason, Pop decided to cook breakfast on the ground. We were surrounded by a few inches of snow. Pop piled some stones together, put in some twigs and sticks, and started the fire. He then chopped up some bacon, fried it in an iron skillet and then mixed in eggs. The steam and smell wafted into the air. It was delicious. Forever, that is what I have always called “Pop’s breakfast”.
My grandfather was quite the man. A giant for his time (6 ft. 2 in.), he played center for the town basketball team. Games were played outside on the earth. He was married to my grandmother but died 15 years before she passed. They were married for over 50 years. In the course of 50 years, they spent one night not together. When he passed, my grandmother’s heart was broken.
I often wonder what would have happened if my grandmother would have passed away first. I just do not know that my grandfather would have been able to carry on.
My grandfather was madly in love with my grandmother. They had breakfast together each morning. They would have coffee. There would usually be biscuits and gravy.
My grandfather was never in a hurry. He always had time for a conversation. While big, he was always gentle.
Through his years, he had a variety of jobs. Pop and Mammaw married just at the beginning of the depression. Pop liked to say that they were better off than most, having a farm where they could raise their own food. Pop got a job hauling rock for the county roads. Again, he felt so fortunate.
Over time, Pop continued with working at whatever he could, and for whatever purpose. He had one goal: provide for his family.
Through the years, he was County Clerk, he sold freezers of meat (some of you are going to remember that), he was the Sheriff of Hill County, Texas, and later in life was a policeman in River Oaks, Texas (a suburb of Fort Worth).
I was always impressed by his attitude. He would “get” to go to work. It was never he “had” to go to work. He always felt fortunate that he was able to provide for his family.
His two sons (my two uncles) were hemophiliacs. One of them died while quite young. Pop never would talk about it. It was too painful.
When I was in college, my grandfather’s other son (my uncle) lost a child. The baby was stillborn. Because I was going to college near Fort Worth, I stepped up to make the funeral arrangements. It was the first time that I had ever seen my grandfather cry. I remember he and my grandmother looking at that little casket, standing arm in arm. The child was named after my grandfather.
As a police officer, I always had to laugh at Pop’s approach. We often joked that Pop would have been killed in a car but for the fact that he was in a police car and everyone moved out of the way. He really was not a good driver. He enjoyed taking his time and looking around.
He carried that approach into his duties. If he stopped someone for a minor infraction, he had the philosophy that if they would truly listen to his lecture, he would let them go. But those lectures could be long. I experienced some of them myself.
Pop was a good man. He was always honest but never critical. He was never hurtful. He never judged me, though I would go through various stages of life.
Upon my arrival to visit with Pop and Mammaw, it would not take long before the dominoes came out. The dominoes were an excuse to have a meaningful conversation at the table. When someone scored a big score, Pop had this wonderful laugh, slow and deep; proud either for himself for scoring the points, or for the person scoring the points. It did not matter to him.
Pop was eventually forced to retire. I believe he was about 67 when he reached the mandatory retirement age with the police department. They had quite a celebration recognizing Pop for all his years of service, his role as a police officer, what he meant to so many of the junior officers, and all the lives he touched in the community.
He had a stroke. We really did not think he would make it, and certainly not make it at home, but he and my grandmother were determined that he would.
Eventually, he fully recovered. The last years of my grandfather’s life were spent as a full-time companion with my grandmother. They gardened; they worked in the yard; and they fished. They would put on these funky hats, and drive to Lake Worth, just a few minutes away. I do not think it was very important to them whether they caught fish. They just enjoyed being together and relaxing.
Probably the greatest lesson that I learned from my grandfather was how to love your wife. Through the many years, their marriage was a partnership. He and Mammaw did things together. Though most of the time my grandmother was a stay-at-home mom, her role was great in the marriage. Poppa leaned on her; she leaned on him.
I never heard Poppa say one harsh word to my grandmother. I never heard him at any time diminish her capabilities or her role. In fact, there was a certain amount of awe he had for my grandmother.
I was fortunate in my life to have my father and stepfather who meant so much to me, but I was just as fortunate to have a grandfather who helped me learn what it meant to be a father, a husband, and a man.
Remember your fathers and grandfathers this year on Father’s Day. And grandfathers, remember the influence you will have on your grandchildren, even when they are 65 years old and you are long gone. You are special.