Monday, June 9, 2008

I Love My Papaw

My Papaw. I love my papaw. He’s kind, generous, smart and so darn funny. He always has nicknames for people. My great-grandfather was Rubberjaw because he was always talking. I had a great uncle named Scoot because he scooted instead of crawled as a baby. My mom, he called Junebug. And he calls me Precious.

When I was little, I followed my older cousin around and did everything she told me to do. I got a cat, a grey and white striped tabby, and she wanted me to name him Peaches after her new Peaches and Crème Barbie. So I did. I don’t remember how old we were when she had this brilliant idea, but she thought it’d be nice of us to draw some pictures for Papaw on his carport. Papaw did not appreciate our fine artwork and whipped us good!

I learned how to swim in Papaw’s pool. He and my mom taught me. I was so scared I’d drown, but when Papaw was there, he told me I’d be ok. And I believed him.

I remember when he married his third (and current) wife. They’d only been dating a few months, six at the most maybe, before they went on vacation to Hawaii and got married. He knew my mom and aunt would have words for him so instead of telling them himself, he got my cousin to make the announcement to the whole family. Ooo he’s clever. They can’t get mad at an 8 year old.

He taught me how to drive his big pickup truck when I was just 14. I was barely a hundred pounds, and the truck felt like it could swallow me up. He laughed and laughed as I squealed making the turns. Again, he told me I’d be ok, and I believed him. As long as he was there with me, I knew it was true.

His favorite food is ice cream. When the medicine makes him feel like he can’t eat and that food doesn’t taste good, he just eats ice cream cuz it always tastes good. When my mom was little, she got mad at him for something. He told her to make him an ice cream sundae, and she made it with shaving cream instead of whipped cream. I wish I could’ve seen his face when he took that first bite. He got so mad at her, but laughed a little too. He has a great laugh.

Everyone in my family thinks I’m a little bit crazy. Why can’t she just settle down? I’ve moved around from place to place like a gypsy. When I told them all I’d be moving again to go back to school, there were a few laughs and rolls of the eyes. “Oh that girl. Isn’t she funny?” But my Papaw pulled me aside and told me he admired that about me. He said I was brave and that he’d be too scared to move around like that. He loves me for just who I am.

He taught me how to fish, and I’ve never seen him more proud or excited than when I’ve caught one and reeled it in. He’ll tell everyone we see, the guy at the convenience store, a waiter at a restaurant. He loves to teach. When I said I’d never had coconut milk from a coconut before, he went right outside to pick one and told me to try it. "It’s always good to try new things," he said. And he laughed when I told him I didn’t like it and told me he didn’t like it either.

A couple years ago, he was very sick and in the hospital. I told him I was thankful his wife was there with him and that she takes such good care of him. He’s never been one to give advice. I used to think it was because he wanted us to figure out things on our own. He’s always pushed us to be independent. But I think it’s actually that he doesn’t realize how wise and smart he is. In any case, he did give advice that day.

He thought he might die, and he told me he wanted me to find a good man. I said I wanted me to find one too. And he said, “You need to find someone who loves you. A good Christian who takes care of you.” Ever sassy, I said, “You want me to find someone who will take care of me? I take care of myself just fine, Papaw.”

He laughed and said, “I know you can take care of yourself. That’s good, and you need to. I want you to find someone who takes care of you by loving you. You need to be loved. You just need to find someone you love that loves you.”

He’s always been like a father to me. When my mother and I needed to leave my father and couldn’t, he grabbed a friend and drove a U-Haul all the way from East Tennessee to New Mexico. He packed up all the furniture and everything in the house, and while my father was at work, we moved out and went home, safe and protected. My mom called him and said we needed help, and he helped.

All my life, he’s taught me what love is. That you love people with what you do and with what you say - it's about both words and actions. You take care of them, you teach them, you make them feel safe and like everything will be ok, you sacrifice for them, you love them for who they are, you laugh with them, you challenge them to try new things, you’re always there when they need you, and you rescue them when they need saving. I love my Papaw, and he loves me.


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