My grandfather died last Sunday, August 14. He was 95 years old. This past week I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather and trying to remember things about him: fuzzy impressions from early childhood, specific details about how he looked and sounded, stories he told and habits he had. Sometimes it feels like I don't remember very much at all. Sometimes it feels like I have a treasure trove of impressions and stories and visual pictures stored away.
He called my little sister "pixie." I remember being jealous that she got a nickname and I didn't. I wanted to be cute like a pixie, too, but I wasn't. But I knew even if I wasn't "pixie" that Grandpa loved me anyway.
He had a deep voice, and slow, and a wonderful TN accent. The way he sounded makes me feel at home. When I hear other people who sound like him, I feel warm and cozy. He told a lot of stories. I don't remember a lot of them, but my aunt and uncle and cousins who still live nearby across the old cow pasture from Grandpa's house made him record some of those stories and some of the family history. His voice got frailer as he passed 90 years old, but he never lost his sense of humor or the impeccable timing required for a really effective punchline. My dad says he still remembers hearing Grandpa say, "I've heard just about enough about that damn peafowl."
He ate chitlins and played Rook. In college I took up Rook partly because the game held a mystique for me: it was that mysterious card game with the big black bird card that Grandpa always played with all the other old men in the cabin behind the house.
I remember watching cartoons on the big, old TV in the living room on Saturday mornings. I remember eating breakfasts at the formica table--specially ordered and incredibly large to accomodate Grandpa's large family. I remember that Grandpa always had a glass of water to drink alongside whatever else it was he was drinking--orange juice or whatever--and it always seemed strange to me, a little idiosyncrasy that we all followed whenever we ate there, because that was what Grandpa did. I remember that Grandpa always prayed before meals, and it was always the same prayer, the prayer that all my life my sisters and I have called "The Grandpa Prayer": "Heavenly Father, We thank you for this food. In the name of Christ, Amen."
My mom told me that one time when my Grandpa was an elder and in charge of serving Communion on Sunday, a poor man slated to serve for the first time showed up without a tie. Instead of telling him he couldn't serve Communion to the congregration without a tie, my Grandpa took off his tie and told everyone else to take off their ties too.
I remember going fishing with my Grandpa and catching my first and only fish. I dropped it on my cousin's head trying to get it in the boat.
I remember my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary.
I remember my Grandpa being proud of me for going to China and for coming back from China and going back to school.
I don't remember my Grandpa the way he looked the last few times I saw him. I remember him big and vibrant and able to hop the fence and feed the cows. I'll always remember him that way, because that's who he was.