[forgive me for the repeat information and photos. James Oliver Green Strother is worth it.]
I miss all of my grandparents quite often, but today is Papaw's birthday so I'm missing him in particular. I knew his birthday was coming - I'll never erase it from iCal - yet I didn't expect to feel so sad. It's been two years - grief is such a weird thing. I looked at photographs from the last day we saw him in the hospital, and to my surprise, tears rolled down my cheeks. He looked happy, but frail. He hugged me tight around the waist. I can hear him singing "Amazing Grace" on his bed. His laugh. I asked Johnny to look at the photos with me and he said, "Remember, we know where he is. We'll see him again!" I fully believe that, but my immature reply was, "He's not here, though." I'd give anything to hear his voice on the cell phone today, wishing him a happy birthday. Or to take the 7-hour drive to see him and his wife, Joy, in San Angelo, TX.
I can't deny the sadness, but I am deeply grateful that he was my grandfather. He's one of those people who will ever inspire me 'til I'm old and gray. And I'm thankful for a working brain, for memories. I'm not feeling much more narrative than this today, so if you will, pardon a list of Papaw-things which I plan to elaborate in my writing of memoirs one day:
-Roses. He could whip ours into shape.
-His lined stationery with a pink rose; sweet notes in the mail.
-He grew delicious tomatoes.
-His buttermilk pie.
-I didn't care for nuts as a kid, so he left pecans out of certain batches of his amazing chocolate fudge. His peanut butter fudge was also to-die-for - I was ok with peanut butter.
-Papaw singing; my Dad on guitar or piano.
-The lyrics to his own hymns. One of my favorites is "On Calvary."
-His signature Christmas gift: a box of chocolate-covered maraschino cherries with money tucked inside. I never did tell him that I despise maraschino cherries. However, last year during Christmas, I purchased a box for my Dad, his sister, and brother to nibble.
-Books. He liked Westerns, biographies, and theology, I believe.
-The art of Bill Chappell (his brother-in-law) on the walls.
-Blue coveralls for working.
-His reputation for innocently flirting with waitresses, often singing in Spanish.
-And, for pulling me and other grown family members into his lap.
-Aramis cologne (Johnny's Dad used this, too).
-His youthful reddish hair. I hope one of our kids will inherit a similar hue.
-Watching football and baseball on TV.
-How he loved his three wives (he outlived the first two); he wrote them funny/sweet poetry.
-He loved his three children, too, very much.
-And all of his grandchildren, his siblings, their families.... You get the idea.
-He was a little apprehensive to meet my fiancé, but he loved and respected Johnny very much.
-Tumbling into his and Memaw's (first wife and my Dad's Mom) bed in the morning with my brother.
-Swimming in the indoor pool (in a nursing facility) with him and Nana (second wife). And summer snow cones. I was partial to blue coconut.
-His intentional optimism towards adversity and suffering, especially when others were around. He liked to encourage us by displaying how to survive, and smile.
-The Bible; always the Bible.
-He couldn't travel to my wedding, but when we showed him pictures, he looked at this one and said, "There's my Jenni," and I am:
[Johnny was making a toast. Photo by YiMay Yang.]