Thursday, January 1, 2015

PawPaw

Up until this week, I had been blessed to still have all four of my grandparents here with us.  I had marveled at that fact a time or two, as it feels like a special privilege these days to spend the first thirty years of one’s life knowing four grandparents who not only love you, but also still love their spouses and obviously love the Lord. 

This week has been a lot of things- sudden, surreal, and sad.  But it’s also made me stop and think about what an influence family has over our lives.  You can move away, you can grow up, you can do your own thing – but wherever you go, whoever you are, these people made you who you are.  When we look at our parents and grandparents, we always like to think we inherited all the good parts and none of the not-so-good ones. With PawPaw, it was hard to even see the not-so-good ones.  He was a good man, plain and simple.  And so much of his goodness runs through this family, it’s hard not to smile even in the midst of the sadness.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of PawPaw is that he was so, so funny.  When I was little, I remember often being startled at the constant sound of laughter in MawMaw and PawPaw’s living room.  Not just polite chuckles but deep-from-the-gut, belly-shaking bellows of laughter that could cause a little girl to about jump out of her skin.  One of my favorite parts about visiting was that I always knew I’d go back to school the next week with a new joke to tell my friends, straight from the lips of PawPaw.  He loved a good laugh, and he kept us laughing.  When I picture him, that’s what I see- him throwing his head back in laughter and then quickly looking back at us to see if we even understood the punch line yet.  Something tells me heaven became a much funnier place this week.

The other thing you knew as soon as you met PawPaw is that he was smart.  There wasn’t a topic he couldn’t weigh in on and he was usually right.  I don’t think I even realized how far reaching his knowledge was until about a year ago when he was in the hospital and my husband and I visited him.  Something about the acoustics in the hospital and the state of his hearing didn’t allow my female voice much of a chance in the conversation, but he could still hear and carry on with Brent.  I sat there for at least an hour listening to those two talk: about work, about politics, about history, about engineering, electronics, mechanics, and inventions and all I could do was shake my head and wonder why I hadn’t cornered this man one-on-one for a conversation like this before.  He knew a little something about everything.

Again, we prefer to think that these family traits are only positive and not negative so we’ll call this next one “independent” and not “stubborn.”  PawPaw was a man who knew how to take care of himself, and did so right until the end.  He drove himself to town to get a part for his tractor the day before he died, and you can bet that he was going to make sure that tractor kept running so he could ride it.  Last spring, we came down to help clean up their yard after an ice storm, and we used both a tractor and a lawn mower to move a ton of brush.  At one point, PawPaw went through all the directions of how to drive the lawn mower with my husband, telling him step by step how it worked.  Brent was all ready to take over and give him a break, but instead he just cranked it back up and kept going.  Brent sort of looked at me and shrugged saying, “I guess all that was just a matter of information.” I laughed and replied, “You didn’t actually think he was going to let you drive it, did you?”

Which brings me to my next point: PawPaw was quite possibly the most hardworking man I’ve ever known.  If it could be done, he could do it and do it himself.   He was creative, innovative, and willing to try new things- every visit to their house inevitably turned into show and tell of what he’d come up with most recently.  There are many things that cause me to call my dad “PawPaw” jokingly on a regular basis, but perhaps this is the trait that I see most clearly living on.  If something needs to be built, invented, or fixed, go see those Hall boys—they get it honest and they won’t let you down. 

Not only did PawPaw teach his family well, he also loved us well.  He truly cared about every member of his family and we never entered or left that house without a hug, an “I love you,” and a “Come see us again.”  This was true for his children and us grandchildren, as well as whomever we brought with us- our dates and our friends.  If you are there with someone MawMaw and PawPaw love, then you are loved as well- no questions asked.  PawPaw simply loved people- I believe in exactly the way that God wants us to love other people.  With a smile, with an occasional word of advice, and often with an offer to help- however he was needed, however he could. 

One of my favorite memories about PawPaw is that he always, always had a new stuffed animal for us when we were little.  Often they came from those stuffed animal machines at the grocery store, the ones with that frustrating claw that no one can really operate- except, our course, for PawPaw.  As we got older and didn’t want the stuffed animals anymore, he would tell us stories of still capturing those stuffed animals with the claw but instead of saving them for us, he’d pass them out to random children at the grocery store.  He’d always smile as he talked about the looks on their unsuspecting faces- nothing made him happier than making someone else happy.  In my opinion, there’s no clearer proof of a good man than that and I couldn’t be prouder that he was my PawPaw.


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