November 30, 2013

Good-Bye. You'll Be With Me Always.

I suppose most people have some wonderful things to say about their grandfather.  Here are some of mine.

My grandfather could split an apple with his bare hands.  He'd grip it, proudly and with much gusto, between his two hands that had been plowing and working since he was single digits, and then twist it before our eyes into two halves.  And then he'd smile, because he knew he was an amazing man.  And he was.  When I went to visit my Pop Pop as a young child, I would approach him for a hug with anticipation and a bit of trepidation, because he also enjoyed squeezing us so tightly that the breath shot right out of my lungs.  Truly, I have never been hugged by anyone else like my Pop Pop hugged me.

My Pop Pop was strong, a bull, I think.  He had worked on a farm since he was old enough to pull a weed, I suspect.  And he continued farming, in addition to working in an office, until he was in his early 90's.  Imagine farming every single year from 10 to 90.  Pop Pop did it without a pause and we were blessed by his food.  People would stop by his property after fishing in Fortescue and give him fish, oysters, clams in exchange for whatever crops were on at the time.  I grew up on his sweet potatoes all winter, his strawberries in the spring, his corn and limas in the summer.  Squash, asparagus, cucumbers and tomatoes.  Once, when I was a new mom, he gave me a few white eggplants.  They were so satiny white, so brilliant, that I put them in a bowl on my table and just looked at them for days in my kitchen.  Finally, I decided that I'd better eat them because Pop Pop would not have his bounty wasted for the purpose of art or decor.  I cut one in half and was agape.  The tiny seeds made a perfect angel.  A halo, head, triangle body, wings going up, and tiny half-circle feet peeking out from the bottom of the gown.  It is still a mystery to me why I didn't photograph it.  I put it in a bowl of lemon juice to preserve it as long as I could.  I cut into the rest but none of the others had seeds that formed anything at all.

He was so strong, so powerful.  It was odd to see him at the end of his life getting weak and thin.  But in those last years, his time was redirected to his first love, the Bible.  In my early 20's I worked as a nutritionist at WIC in Philadelphia and at night, a waitress.  I got home late, after everyone had gone to bed and sat down at the dining room table for my third job.  I put on white cotton gloves to cover my sweaty hands, opened Pop Pop's old Bible and the new large print one and began transcribing his copious notes from one to the other.  Pop Pop hired me to do this when his eyes could no longer read the small print.  But he also had an ulterior motive.  He wanted me in the Bible.  When I say my Pop Pop had notes in his Bible, you probably don't have any idea what I mean.  Every single page but, I think I counted, 3 had underlined words, Greek words, cross-referenced verses, personal notes, notes from other books, etc.  It took many months.  I never did finish.  I think I got into the New Testament and he finally took it back, paying the full amount he'd promised, and finished it himself.  He loved his Bible(s).  He gave them to me before he died.  He wants me to study all of his notes and appreciate the Bible and all of his notes.  This will surely take me the rest of my life too.

After Grammy died in 1994, my visits to Pop Pop were all about sitting down and listening to him tell me about his Bible studies.  I didn't do this nearly enough.  But I will never forget those times we did spend together.  He desperately wanted to share with me his great love of God's word--he desperately wanted to share that with everyone!  And he always repeated over and over how blessed his life was by his relationship with Jesus.

I've written all of these things about my grandfather before.  I do tend to classify my memories of Pop Pop into three or four categories.  His garden, his Bible, his strength--mental and physical.  But mostly my Pop Pop, to me, was a force.  To tell the truth, I feared him just a little as a child.  Not in the sense of being hurt by him, not at all.  But in the sense of not being good enough, not measuring up in a moral sense.  Pop Pop had many rules--don't tread on the garden vines, don't step on the mole traps, don't say "lucky" because you're blessed, don't do any work on Sundays and that included picking vegetables before returning home to Pitman, don't eat before grace, don't curse, don't drink, don't smoke.  I loved Pop Pop but I could never measure up to him.  He lived so strongly, so assuredly, so straight, so narrow.

For some, the straight and narrow might feel confining.  For Pop Pop, the straight and narrow was the place where he could be fruitful and vibrant.  He thrived, he produced, he learned, he created beauty on his two acre corner, he built a house and a family and a life that worked for him and he loved his life.  He loved his life and he steered and drove it like the plow he pushed through those rich, fertile fields by the bay every single spring.  And in the fall, he tilled the dead vines and stalks back under with the certain expectation to start again when God's seasons allowed.

My last glimpse of Pop Pop today didn't look much like this man I knew but then I glanced down at those hands.  They were the same strong, gnarled, handsome hands that did so much--everything he set out to do!  They looked powerful even there lying still on his gray suit jacket.  I will never know hands like that again, the work they accomplished, the words they held, followed, underlined, noted.  

Instead of dawdling in those feelings of never measuring up to the amazingness of Pop Pop, I will leave those childish notions behind on that chilly gray hill where I said good-bye to his 99 year old body.  God made Pop Pop to do Pop Pop's work.  And He made me to do mine.  And God already knows I'm far from perfect, that's why He sent Jesus.  But God loves me, this I know.  The Bible tells me so, and so did my grandfather.

1 comment:

KimP said...

Absolutely love this, Jennie. Wish I could have known him, too. Thanks for introducing him. :)