My grandfather passed away last week at the age of 90. For the funeral, all the family members were asked to provide a memory of him to be used in the memorial service. I couldn’t come up with just one, of course, because there were so many to choose from. Below is what I wrote.
I always remember Granddaddy as being precise and orderly. Getting somewhere on time meant getting there early, just so you would be sure to be on time. Whether it was going to church or a family gathering, you could always count on my grandparents arriving early, usually being among the first ones there.
My grandparents always led an active life, never content to just sit around and watch the world go by. When I was in the first grade, I stayed with my grandparents for a short time while my family was moving from Nashville back to Memphis. And I remember being amazed that Granddaddy would get up at what seemed to be a ridiculously early time - 5:00 AM - and shine his shoes. Not just one day a week, but every day. I later learned this was something he started during his time in the Marines, and he carried it over to his civilian life. And his shoes always did have a perfect shine.
He worked for many years as a janitor at the Macon Road Church of Christ building. Maybe not the most glamorous work, but I never heard him complain about it. On many occasions, he would take us grandkids along to help him. He would find some task for us to do, such as cleaning the mirrors in the restrooms. When I was finished with whatever it was I was doing, I could easily find him, no matter where he was in the building. All I had to do was to stop and listen for his whistle. He truly was always whistling while he was working.
He worked hard all of his life. Not just when he was “at work”, but any other time as well. They were always doing something around their house – painting, rearranging furniture, adding a doorway in a wall, adding on to the garage building in their back yard. Or they were out working in their garden plots at Shelby Farms. One day, when they were in their 60s, they called my mom to ask if she had tried to call them recently. They said they hadn’t been able to hear the phone ring because they were outside in the tree in their backyard trimming branches out of it. This tree was rather large, and when Mom asked how they got into the tree, they said, “We just climbed up on the garage roof and jumped over into it.” They never let anything slow them down.
Granddaddy has always been the quiet one in the family in comparison to my grandmother, who always has a story to tell or a song to sing. Mention just about any word or phrase, and she will immediately sing a song about it. But just a couple of years ago, they called and left a message on the answering machine on my birthday. She was singing the lead, as usual, but he was in the background, singing perfect harmony. And that sums up to me how he always was. He may not always have been the center of attention, but he was always there, doing his part, helping out in any way he could.