Friday, September 9, 2011

My Pa

Last night, I was reading all the posts on Facebook about people's fathers and grandfathers I posted a comment about my loving father and husband. I have been very lucky to have had my dad for 51 years and my husband for 30. I have also been extremely lucky to have some wonderful uncles who made a great impression on my life as well, but I only had one grandfather.

My mother's father, "Pa" was the only grandfather I ever knew. My dad's father passed away two years before I was born. However, I never felt cheated in anyway because my Pa was grandfather enough.

His name was George Anderson Henry. He eloped with my grandmother, Daisy, following the wedding of his best friend, Paul, and her sister, Ruth. They met at church. They were parents to seven children of which my mother, Katherine, is the second. They were grandparents to twenty-one grandchildren of which I was the ninth and oldest granddaughter. My grandparents were married for fifty years. They lived their entire married life in Lynn County, Texas, near Tahoka. My Pa died when I was twelve.

Pa was a kind and caring man. He never once raised his hand or his voice to me. His lap was big enough to hold at least two children, his arms were long enough to hug three children at one time, and his heart was large enough to love us all. He would let us brush and comb what little hair he had left as long as we didn't "tease" it or spray it with hairspray. He would "whisker" us with his jaw or chin when we snuggled him and we all loved for him to tickle us. Pa could tease me without ever hurting my feelings or insulting me and he would laugh at my silly jokes like I was the funniest child he had ever encountered. Even though, there were twenty-one of us that vied for his attention, he seemed to have enough time for us all. We were all his "Snicklefritz," but no one seemed to mind sharing this nickname.

Spending time at the farm with my grandparents was the happiest moments of my childhood. I never wanted to sleep late if I heard his voice coming from the kitchen in the morning. I would rush to dress and meet him at the kitchen table. It was an honor to sit next to him and listen to what he had to say about the day ahead of us, the state of the country, politics, or his Sunday School lesson. I remember hearing him discuss his political views with my dad and I learned right away that he was a die-hard Democrat. We never ate a meal without him asking God for his blessing and it was evident that Christ was the center of his life.

When you visited my grandparents, church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night was expected. I can still feel myself leaning against him in the pew at Sweet Street Baptist Church as he sang the hymns in his clear baritone voice.

"Alas and did my savior bleed and did my sovereign die. Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day."

He sang when he worked in his yard, his garden, and his orchard, but the songs he sang were not ones heard on the radio. They were hymns. I was always excited when I could sing along. I remember being lucky enough to ride with him on his little John Deere that he used to plow his garden and the orchard. I can still smell that freshly turned dirt from the plow. I can still feel the comfort of his arms around me as I sat on his lap as he worked the steering wheel. I can still feel my eyes closing as his singing and the motor of the tractor lulled me to sleep. I was safe and secure in his arms.

Pa respected my parents and never interfered when I was in need of a little discipline. Once when my daddy had spanked me and sat me down in a chair on the porch, Pa moved his chair next to mine. I was no doubt sniffling and feeling sorry for my rear-end and he saw how I was suffering. I asked him if I could sit in his lap, and he said, "Jan, you need to ask your daddy if that would be alright. I don't want him mad at me, too!" My dad gave in and let me sit in Pa's lap, and before long I was back in the yard, playing with my cousins.

It was all good and wonderful until one night it was all over. My Pa, George Anderson Henry, died from a massive heart attack at the Tahoka, Texas, hospital. I can still hear my daddy telling me the news. I can still see my mother devastated and walking around in a haze. There were so many people who attended his funeral that it was held at First Baptist Church. The guest book held the names of a mayor, a bank president, local farmers, and even field hands. This book was a testament of the different people who held him in high regard. No one was too great or too insignificant in his way of thinking. I still have a red carnation from the spray on his casket pressed in a children's poetry book. I can still feel the confusion I felt and how nothing was right at the farm following his death.

But life goes on and ours did too. Because of our love for my grandfather and grandmother, we met each summer for a large family reunion until my grandmother died. Standing together in a crowded kitchen, waiting to eat our lunch, a family member was always asked to bless the food. It never failed that at one point of the blessing, the person praying would include the words to the prayer my grandfather would say every day at every meal.

"Our father, accept our thanks for these and all of our blessings. Bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies and look down upon us as we live our lives. We beg for Christ sake. Amen."

My Pa lives on in those of us he left behind. We were all loved by him and very important to him. If I ever disappointed him, I never knew about it. I like to think that he saw through all my flaws straight to my heart. I never felt unlovely, unappreciated, or unworthy of his love. I still miss him.

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