Even now, after all these years, I don’t know what to get the man who has everything. But I can tell you firsthand what he gave me. Anytime I hear John 10:10, “I’ve come to give you life, and give it more abundantly”, I remember Pop.
I remember riding in his car (I couldn’t have been more than three), pointing to an icicle, dangling like a fine, jeweled earring from the limb of a winter-shocked pecan tree. “Look, Pop!”
Pop stopped, climbed out onto the hood and plucked the magical crystal from its home. Together we touched, smelled and tasted beauty, holding it up, allowing light to catch it from all different angles.
He gave me a sense of wonder.
I have a mental image of him, as clear as a photo, standing with a shotgun against his shoulder, checking one last time to see where all of us grandkids stood. A half second later a huge rattlesnake, almost the length of my little sister’s body, lay lifeless, the threat gone. He scanned the hills around our houses and we knew that later that week he’d be out in the pastures, scouring the countryside to find the snake den and eliminate it as well.
He gave me security.
When I was six he presented a pony to our families. His face shone with pride and enthusiasm. He giggled like a girl as he saddled her for the first ride around his few acres. The first ride went to my oldest sister, and the rest of us stood transfixed, imagining our bodies bouncing along the gentle trot, dreaming Wild West scenarios, Comanche raids, wagon trains rolling. We worked our way down to the youngest, a mere 4 years old. Kick and plead as she did the pony, once part of a kiddie carnival, only walked in small circles. Pop doubled over with laughter.
He gave me adventure.
He couldn’t tell a joke to save his soul. His tale was interrupted, every time, long before he arrived at the punch line. He would sit, red-faced from pent up mirth, trying to deliver the last line. No one cared if he did or not; we laughed along with him, delighted at his enjoyment of his own inability to finish. The joy would sneak out in his laughter and leak out the corners of his eyes until he finally lay against the arm of his recliner, caught in the hilarity.
He taught me fun.
Every workday at 5:35 he pulled slowly onto the winding driveway that led to the house. We waited for him at the mailbox. We took turns sitting on his lap, brows furrowed in concentration, steering the short distance home. At the house he opened his lunchbox, revealing candies and fruit. “Don’t know why Libby puts so much in here,” he’d complain mildly as he passed the goodies out.
He gave us anticipation.
When I was ten I overheard a conversation with my daddy. “I won’t be on the ballot for deacon,” he concluded. “They want to use my reputation to get Bill Hallow’s son on. He won’t be elected on his own, and I’m a shoe-in. I won’t be used to confirm his deaconship when I know he’s not spiritually ready for that position.” As deserving as he was, he never did become a deacon.
He gave me integrity.
The Sunday morning Grandmamma called to tell us he died my heart broke into so many pieces that just gathering them would prove impossible. We made our way, zombie-like, to the house my grandparents had shared for thirty years to hug, cry and comfort.
“What about church?” my mother whispered through tears and swollen eyelids. Morning service had come and gone long ago, but evening worship would begin son.
We all quietly dressed and arrived only a few minutes late, unwilling to deny the legacy that my grandfather had so lovingly and carefully given us. He would have understood our absence from the service, of course, but it wouldn’t have honored him as much as our attendance.
He gave us faith.
My sisters and cousins and I gave him a Bing Cosby album for his birthday one year, an assortment of handmade ashtrays, an oil painting of a rather mottled sunset over a strangely colored stream and our total love and adoration.
He gave us the clearest picture of abundant life I’ve ever seen. He lived the love that he felt through Jesus every day that he lived.
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