Sunday, June 21, 2009
I didn't know Paw Paw very long, but I remember I was crazy about him. Paw Paw was my great- grandfather. He was a big, handsome man with caramel skin and warm eyes. I loved sitting in his lap when I was a little girl. He always picked me up. He was so tall I thought I could touch the ceiling when he held me.
Paw Paw was from Biloxi, Mississippi. My grandpa, Paw Paw's son, told me he was a cool dude, but not one to mess with. Paw Paw always packed a pistol under his car seat. Waaaay back in the day before I was born, some young cat tried to carjack him. Paw Paw calmly pulled out his pistol. Luckily the young man left with his life. Paw Paw left with his car.
Paw Paw had a lasting Southern Charm because at the age of four I adored him and still do 25 years later. His West Oakland house always stood out to my little imaginative mind. The awning over his front window was made out of candy canes and he had the brightest rose bushes on the block. Pretty like the rose from The Little Prince novel. At least I thought. Every time mom and I visited, I head for Paw Paw's hall closet to play with his broken "Family Feud" board game. The one with Richard Dawson on the box. The flip tiles with the survey's answers fell off if you turned them. But for some reason they were fun to me.
It's funny how I don' t remember our conversations or even Paw Paw's voice. I just remember I liked visiting him and he was very attentive to me. And I remember his wife Pee Wee (don't ask me why we called her Pee Wee) could bake a mean pan of cornbread. They had a spacious, airy kitchen, that glowed from the sunlight. I'd sit in Pee Wee's old high kitchen chair while she made cornbread and chicken on her gas stove. The one with the green finish that was stylish back in the 70s. That thing could heat the whole house but the breeze coming through the red-wooden back door cooled us off.
I learned an important life lesson from Paw Paw--death. Paw Paw died from emphysema when I was about six or seven years old. He quit smoking by the time I came around but it was too late. He was the first person close to me who died. I remember mom trying to explain me that Paw Paw wouldn't be coming back and he was with God in Heaven. But she said he would always be in our hearts. I didn't get it. Death is a hard thing to explain to a kid. Being the little journalist in training, a few times I secretly rummaged through our kitchen drawer for Paw Paw's funeral program. I needed to piece together why I would never be able to sit in his lap again and eat warm, sweet cornbread. I looked at the program with an old black and white photo of Paw Paw on the front, but it still didn't make any sense. A couple of years later I understood what my mom was trying to tell me, especially the part about Paw Paw being in my heart. Mom was right because he's still there.
Happy Father's Day Paw Paw.
Pre School Rock