As promised, here is my attempt at introducing you to one of the most important people placed in my life by God, my Pappaw Fred.
Let me give you a quick little bit of background information.
When my daddy was very young, like 5 or 6, he lost his only brother. Mike was on his bicycle delivering The Grit newspaper the day after Christmas. A drunk driver came up behind him and hit him. The impact threw Mike 150 feet and he later died in my mammaw's arms at the hospital. It changed my daddy, made him very withdrawn and quiet. My grandparents were devistated and I pray daily that I never have to know what that feels like to lose a son. A few years after his death, my grandparents tried to have another child but weren't able to. This left my daddy as an only child.
Fast forward a few years to where my daddy is 17 years old. He had to tell my grandparents that my mama was pregnant and that they were getting married. On July 3, 1971, I came into this world WIDE OPEN they said, and I haven't slowed down yet. My grandparents were at the beach and had to cut their vacation short to meet me!
I used to love hearing that story every year at my birthday as Pappaw would begin with...."Ten years ago today (or however many years it was), me and your mammaw were at the beach. We got a phone call that said you were born and we had to throw everything in the car and come home--just to get to see you!"
How I wish I could hear that story again, coming from Pappaw.
I was the first grandchild on both sides, as well as the first great grandchild on my mama's side too. I was really spoiled by most of the family, but my Pappaw Fred was my favorite.
My parents and I lived with mammaw and pappaw until I was a little over a year old. When I would cry during the night, before my mama or daddy could get out of the bed, they say Pappaw was the first in the bedroom many nights to get me. He would pick me up out of my crib and take me to either rock me awhile, or to get in his bed and I'd fall sound asleep on his chest.
As I got older, my parents didn't go to church much at all. My daddy had been "made" to go while growing up, (like most of us, right! =0)) and he also had a sunday school teacher make a few comments about premarital sex and how wrong it was, along with some mean looks at my mama and daddy, and that turned my daddy away.
We all need to be careful about how we say things. My parents knew that it was wrong but they got married and did the best they could. As an 18 year old father, with all of the pressures of being the provider, the LAST thing he needed on a Sunday morning was to get the "stink eye" from his Sunday school teacher during the entire lesson. My daddy still doesn't go to church regularly because of that one man. I pray that God will clamp my mouth shut before I say something stupid or judgemental that would turn someone away from worshipping Him by coming to church.
My parents did come to church if we were in a program or something--but not often. There were many times as a child that I would be singing or doing something at church and would search the congregation to find that my parents weren't there. As a child it was devistating! But, I always knew they loved me and there was NEVER any question about that. I just wish they would have come to support me and my brother and sister.
I also always knew that when I was doing something at church, at school, wherever---my Pappaw Fred would be there will a huge, proud smile.
When I was a teenager, my Pappaw went on a missions trip to Africa with some people at my church and a few other churches in our area. He bought a camcorder and video taped lots of the trip. We were amazed at how different things were in another country.
That camcorder became his sidekick. Anytime me, my brother, or my sister were in anything, he brought the camcorder and recorded it. Today I enjoy looking back at those tapes and hearing his commentaries.
We also used to sit around the house on a Sunday afternoon with his little tape player/recorder and sing and record it. I would play the piano and he'd sit right beside me and we'd sing together and make little cassette tapes of our singing. It was hilarious and I still listen to those tapes sometimes. You remember these things?
We had the best time with this! His was black, but you get the picture anyway.
So....we'll fast-forward a bit to my wedding.
There are so many stories I could tell you about me and Pappaw. But I'd probably either lose you or I'd get lost myself in the nostalgia.
When Big Daddy and I got married, it was the week before Christmas, 1994. After we left and went home to change clothes we headed out for our honeymoon. Before heading up Highway 27 to get to Interstate 40, we stopped at the church and helped everyone clean up. When we were all done, my Pappaw realized that we had left the Christmas tree plugged in at the church, so me and him headed back down there from the fellowship hall to unplug it. He made me go down the basement stairs to get to where they had ran the plug down some kind of vent, and unplug it. I was terrified. I don't know about you, but I am totally scared beyond belief to go into a church at night. I know it's God's House and all, but something about it freaks me out.
Anyway, after getting the tree unplugged, I came back up the stairs and we locked the door. The click of that lock must have made it final for him because he said, "Little Honeybun....umm....you're not my honeybun anymore." I said, "Pappaw--don't be crazy. I'm still your honeybun. Just because I'm married don't mean I ain't your honeybun anymore!" He said, "Yes it does Michelle, because now you are somebody else's honeybun." I hugged his neck and we both stood there and cried. I think that was his way of letting me go...of 'cutting the strings' so to speak.
I cried from Alexis Baptist Church to the other side of the Lincolnton Courthouse. I know he was happy for me, was proud of me, was tickled to death that I had found someone to love for the rest of my life, but it still made me sad for him. As a parent now, I see how hard that's gonna be on me when the day comes where Lil R leaves to start his own family....
A year and a half after our wedding we lost my precious Pappaw. He had a bubble in his carotid artery and had several strokes in Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. They didn't test his blood with the blood thinner they used, and it turned his blood to jello. On May 14, 1996, my Pappaw was escorted into the sweet arms of Jesus by many angels. I was in the waiting room when he died but I went in and kissed him on the cheek and told him to help the Lord work on my mansion. I told him to please make sure that there was a grand piano in it somewhere and I promised him I'd play him a tune as soon as I could. We buried him on a Friday--May 17th and I played the piano at his funeral. I played "The Old Rugged Cross" and then went straight into "In the Sweet By and By". Those were two of his favorites and I hope I done him proud.
Just about a month before he died, on Easter weekend we had the following conversation:
ME: Pappaw...why don't you go with me to the sunrise service at my church.
**(I had moved churches because Community Baptist Church needed a piano player and I loved it there. Pappaw stayed at Alexis Baptist but was proud of me for using my talents and gifts to glorify God through music)
PAPPAW: Nope...I'm a goin' to my church.
ME: Awww...come on Pappaw. I could stop right by and pick you up. You can go to your church for regular services.
PAPPAW: Naw--you go on to your church.
ME: Pappaw---they'll only have a Hardee's biscuit after the sunrise service at your church. Our church has a full breakfast--grits, scrambled eggs, biscuits, country ham, bacon....you know you'd rather have that. Plus, we could go together and that would mean a lot to me.
PAPPAW: I guess I'll just go to my church. I've been going and I'm going to go tomorrow.
ME: Ok--but if you change your mind, let me know. I'll drop by and pick you up on my way in the morning.
PAPPAW: No--I'll see you after church.
So at the time to go to sunrise service, I drove on to my church. When I got home, mammaw called and said, "Your Pappaw was sitting on the porch waiting on you. Did you forget him?"
I was heart broken. I could just see him sitting there waiting on me. Did I miss something? I thought he told me to go on to my church--he DID tell me that!
At lunch he told me that he had waited on me but he figured he forgot to call me and tell me to come pick him up.
Every year since then, I still think of him early on Easter morning while I'm getting ready to go to our Sunrise Service. I think about how he was sitting on the porch looking for me and I never came by. Of course it wasn't my fault, but I still would give anything to have been able to spend Easter Morning with my Pappaw Fred.
Every year at Easter, I remember him and I smile...because he's spending Easter with Jesus. He's getting to look at the most beautiful sunrises everyday with Jesus.
Every year at Easter, I thank God that HE AROSE from death, hell and the grave, and I have the assurance that I'll see Jesus one day and be able to thank Him, face to face, for EVERYTHING He's done for me, and I'll get to kiss my Pappaw Fred on the cheek and spend forever with him too.
So when YOU get to heaven, listen for "In the Sweet By and By" coming somewhere from one of the mansions, being played on a grand piano. When you come in the house and you see me and Pappaw Fred there together on the piano bench, pull you up a chair and sing with us. We'd love it!