I experienced one of the greatest losses of my life 12 years ago today. You see, my grandfather was bigger than life. When he walked in a room, he owned that room. He had the personality of a John Wayne, never meeting a stranger and never afraid to “get up on that horse,” no matter how many fears he had inside. In fact, as a child, I was convinced he couldn’t possibly have any fears!
He was born in a small, no name kind of town, a son born into poverty and of low education. When he was 15, he was told by a banker he was worthless and didn’t deserve the money he was seeking. He told the man that one day he would prove him wrong, and he did just that. He began his own HVAC company, became a county commissioner, retired from his business when I was just a little girl, and went back to buy out that banker, only to find the man had already lost his place. He believed in hard work and the common decency among men. He could spin the biggest tale, keeping you entertained for hours; yet, when it came to business, he believed in integrity, fairness and an honest wage for honest work.
He stood at six feet four inches tall, wore Stetson hats and alligator boots (or the nicest, toughest boots found in the store that day), and he struck up conversation with every person he encountered on the park bench while waiting for his wife to finish shopping. He could wrestle and kill a six-foot rattler, and he’d do the same to a six-foot man if he threatened a child (which actually happened once!). He loved his wife, his two girls, and his four grands (and their spouses), even if his gruffness hid that love most of the time. He believed in taking care of what you have and working hard for what you want. One of his famous lines was, “Take care of your equipment, and your equipment will take care of you!”
He was like a Daddy to me. My mom was single for most of my childhood, and he just kind of filled in that gap. He made sure I was clothed, fed and had just about all I wanted or needed in life. He’d pick me up after school in his old Ford Ranchero, and we’d stop by the Stuckeys gas station to get some candy…that was back when you could get a piece of candy for a dime and a coke for fifty cents; so, I always loaded up with the $3-5 he gave me!
He taught me how to fish and how to clean them; although, he always handled the knives. He bought me my first car, and even though, he had the money to pay cash for it, he set me up with monthly payments; so, I could learn how to pay bills and manage a checkbook properly. He always had a bear hug waiting and would never let me leave without a little cash in my pocket. He loved me something fierce, and I loved him right back the same.
When he left this world, he took some of its color with him, and my life has never been the same. He sure wasn’t perfect, but he brought a little perfection into my world. They say, “Time heals all pain,” but I have to disagree. Time doesn’t really heal grief, only Jesus can do that. Time just simply helps you learn how to tolerate the pain and be able to “categorize it” within your own heart. It helps you to see more clearly, and if you choose it to, time allows you to help someone else along the same journey.
I’ll miss him until the day I die, and I’ll keep his memories alive for my children to remember what a great legacy we have.