Grandaddy Neal and Me

I have been a grandfather for a little over 72 hours now. I have gushed with pride and I have shown pictures of Marcus to every single person who would stand still long enough. I have discovered that iPhones are wonderful digital photo albums and make it so much easier to bombard unsuspecting folks with images of the most perfect grandbaby ever born. And just so you know, there is no reason to even attempt to debate me on this, you will be wrong.

I still don’t know how to describe how this feels. I know some of you are probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah, you’ve already said that. We GET it.” I really do apologize for sounding like a broken record. I have been a father for over nineteen years and I STILL don’t think I can accurately explain what it is like to someone who isn’t a parent. Those of you with children understand exactly what I’m talking about. Please don’t mistake this as conceit, I do not think any less of people who have chosen not to have children or who are not able to. I would never suggest that I am somehow better or happier because I am a father.

As far as being a grandparent goes, I find it even more difficult to articulate all of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I have experienced over the last three days. If I had to choose just one word to sum up the experience so far I would have to go with WONDERFUL. I love this kid for no other reason than the fact that he exists. We are linked genetically but I didn’t help create him and I am not responsible for him. In spite of that, I love him with everything that is within me. I am already thinking about all the cool things that Papa Lee will get to do with him. I love being a Dad and I realize that it may be the most important job I have ever been given. However, there’s something about being a grandfather that is exciting and different.

My Dad’s father died before I was born so I never had the opportunity of knowing him as my grandfather. Mom’s Dad died when I was seventeen so I was only blessed with him for just as few short years. He was sick the last couple of years he was alive so I try not remember him when he was frail and weak. I like to think back to when I was little kid and he was still full of life. One of my favorite memories from childhood is of him laying on the floor of his living room and being the road while we drove Hot Wheels cars all over his back. I don’t know how many times we did that while I was growing up but the image is permanently etched into my memory and I cherish it.

One of my favorite pictures of my Grandaddy (that’s what I called him) was taken while he still worked at Weyerhauser. He’s sitting on the tailgate of a pick-up truck with his hard hat and work clothes on. There’s a sly grin on his face and cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. That’s exactly the way I remember him for much of my childhood. I kind of wish the cigarette wasn’t there because they most likely helped end his life way too soon, but that is a part of who he was. One of my favorite southern delicacies is to pour salted peanuts into a bottle (it has to be a glass bottle) of Pepsi. Only God knows how many times I watched Grandaddy do that.

I love OLD country music. I really do believe that I got that from him too. I can remember going to visit my grandparents on Sundays after we moved to Rocky Mount. One of the things I remember doing on those visits was watching Hee Haw and The Porter Wagoner Show. I have been a rock and roll guy most of my life but that part of me that embraces that old country & western music comes from Grandaddy and I thank him for it. I wish my kids could have met him. I think they would have loved him and I KNOW that he would have loved them.

These are the kinds of thoughts that I have been having ever since Marcus made his way into this world on Sunday morning. Even more than usual, I have been considering my own mortality. By the time I graduated from high school I only had one grandparent still living. I lost my Grandma last October. It’s still on my mind. I was blessed to have her for forty-four years and I miss her. I think of my other grandmother, who passed away when I was just four years old. I think of Grandaddy, who was gone before I turned eighteen. I think of the grandfather I never knew. I think of little Marcus and I wonder if he will be able to see me grow to be an old man.

I watched the Martin family say goodbye to Mr. Henry on Monday. He had 91 incredible years on this earth and I listened in awe as his children and grandchildren celebrated his life. I hope and pray that my family will be able gather years from now and celebrate all of the years that they had with me. This journey began twenty-four years ago when Robin married me. Geo has been with us nineteen years, Chris is quickly approaching fifteen years, and Jamie just hit ten year. Marcus is now here and the next chapter has begun. I said that I didn’t have the words to describe this but as I finish this entry I realize that I have written two full pages. Perhaps I have more to say than I thought. Lord willing, I plan to write much more before this story ends.



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