Polk Hawthorne. He came into Mama's life about 5 years after she lost Daddy. She had tried the Church Singles group, and a little dating. But had been appalled at the behavior of the men. I was off at college, about a two hour drive away. I knew she felt incredibly lonely. I swear she heard as soon as that Mustang Cobra turned onto the other end of our two mile highway headed to the house. She would be outside by the driveway waiting when I pulled in!
Polk was her sister's husbands double first cousin. (Don't worry....if you ain't from the South, you'll never figure it out.) They "met" over at their house. And they began to keep each other company. Soon it was bonified dating. And then marriage. My sisters and I took Mama to see Conway Twitty live for her bachlorette party.
Any old how. I was very happy for Mama, because she seemed happy for the first time since Daddy died. But I had some issues I quietly worked through on my own....with a little help from above. They were planning to move into "our" house after the honeymoon. I was home from school in bed alone there. Wide awake. I heard Daddy's footsteps walk from the back bedroom, through the kitchen and into the living room. Oh, they were his for sure. As he was the only person who ever walked through that house and made the lids rattle in the bottom of that old Frigidaire stove! (No, I do not believe in ghosts. I believe that when we experience something we explain as a ghost, it is either a vision God has allowed to reassure or comfort us or a demon posing as a deceased soul.) This experience reassured me deeply that no one could remove Daddy from my heart or take his place in Mama's.
Polk, himself, proved to be a reassurance. He never tried to impose himself on me as "Daddy". Oh, he was there for me in many ways like a daddy, but he didn't assert himself as one. Our relationship evolved into one like that of a dear uncle and niece.
Mama was only around for two short years after their marriage. But Polk helped her to be happy. To feel needed. And to feel taken care of. I don't know how she could have stood the loss of my middle sister without him.
My kids have clung to him. Neither of them ever got to know all of their grandparents. He was the feisty, funny old man that chewed a cigar, raised peas and tomatoes. The one they helped in the summer. They one that always had yellow cling peaches to eat at his house and a new cigar box for them at the start of each school year.
Polk, like so many of his generation, served in WWII. Came home. Worked many years as a guard at a Texaco refinery. Gardened. Truck farmed his produce to grocery stores along the way to work. In later years, he had a garden with a shed, where folks came to him to get the biggest and the best. (But Daddy could've beat him any day on tators!) Never down sick. Always plugging along, through spurs in his neck, diabetes, and other infirmities. Never really complained. After all, what good would it do..."It wouldn't change anything.", he'd say.
It took 83 years for his age to catch up with him. He was 84 upon his passing. I know that there is not a lot of detail about him here...but he was a simple person. And, after all, it is the mark he has left on us that matters.
Polk, you'll be missed.