If it is supposed to be the day for "J", then of course I'll have to talk about your Paw Paw, Junior. I'm not gonna try to relate your Daddy's families stories. Those would be better coming from one of them. What I'm gonna share is my own memories of my relationship with Junior.
When I first met him, he was big and friendly. Something unidentifiable reminded me a little of my own daddy. I don't know that he thought a whole lot of me at first. After all, I was sort of citified and proper. But, he was always nice to me.
I began to gain a little foot way with him when he realized I did know my way around a garden. They say the way to a man's heart is through their stomach, and that worked a good way with him. He loved my salads, and hushpuppies and sweets.
One tale I always have to tell, because it showed me the shear strength of the man. Daddy & I had been riding in the big black jeep. The front end fell out of it, just past the Williams Compressor Station, just about in front of Robert's house. It was late at night, probably 12 or 1. We walked around the curve and up to the house. Back then Uncle Danny Boy was living in a little red house right about where our shop is now.
Your daddy banged and banged on Danny Boy's door. You could hear the kids inside. Pete called out too, but he still didn't get up and come to the door. The Bible says to be persistent and they'll finally open the door. But Pete ran out of patience before the door was ever opened and took Punk's huge shotgun he had borrowed and pointed it straight into the air and shot it off. Oh the caterwauling and screaming that commenced inside that little house! You could hear adult voices. Danny Boy hollering.
I really don't recall if Danny Boy made it outside his house first or if Junior beat him out of his own. What I do recall is Junior picking your daddy up by the back of the neck with one hand like he was a hound puppy, his feet dangling a foot of the ground, while he used his free hand to yank the shotgun from Pete's grasp and throw it to me military style. He looked me straight in the eye and told me not to let him have it back.
Everyone was mad. Everyone was excited. But in the end Danny Boy ran us home. And everyone got over it. After all, Danny Boy and Junior both had pulled their share of harebrained stunts before.
Time rolls along. One year for Pete and Juniors birthdays, Junior came down to our house and fried fish in the backyard for everyone. I mixed up and we cooked three double batches of hushpuppy batter that day. The most I've ever made for one occasion. Your Paw Paw knew how to fry a catfish!
He loved to spend the summer months camped in at Craven's camp. We'd ride Volkswagen hoopies in there and visit and swim. But when he was tired of all the drunks and the company, you'd better clear on out.
Then in 1988, we found out we were pregnant with Bubba. Junior was happy and excited. Daddy was the only child that had not yet given him a grandchild. Then Junior had a stroke. He was in Galveston. I remember riding all the way down with my stupid stretch pant front jeans and fat shirt. (I gained weight in a hurry and everywhere with you child!) Daddy and I stayed over in a flea bag hotel on the strip. They wanted Junior to stay there a while. But he just wanted to be home. They wanted him to do therapy to better recover his speech and the use of his hand, but he didn't like it.
Thank God he was home when the next May rolled around and you were born. I remember the first time we took you up there for him to see. He held you in one huge hand and looked at you, and looked at you. He didn't need words. We knew how proud he was.
After his stroke, he pissed several of his kids off by continuing to go camping and fishing. All we could think was, as much as he loved it, if he died in there doing it, at least he'd be happy. Once when you were small, Bubba, we went to see him there and he asked if we were hungry. (When did he not ask?!) He went on to say there was a pot of dumplings on the stove in the camper. I went in and started helping me a plate. As your daddy continued deciphering what he was saying, I over heard that he had shot a couple of crows and made dumplings out of them, as the fishing was bad. I just racked the food off my plate back into the pot without a word.
Finally, when daddy was working for Billy Dan all the time, I earned the last of Junior's respect. He had hogs. Daddy would bring feed every so often and tote it across the yard and dump it into barrels for him by the hog pen. One time Daddy called me and said he wouldn't be able to make it. Asked me to get it in my car and take up there. So I did. Without a word, I drove up, parked in the front. Opened the trunk and unloaded and toted on my shoulder sack after sack, stopping to empty each one in the barrel before going back for another. When I finished I walked up to the front porch. Junior was sitting there as usual. And he was smiling from ear to ear. Pointing at me, making muscles and laughing. I believe he thought they had finally made a country girl out of me.
Time comes for me to go back to work when you were 5. We tried a sitter, but you were miserable there. Junior insisted we bring you to him, instead. We had some trepidation. But finally just gave in. It was definitely the best thing for him, and you seemed much happier. Once again there were some who were jealous. And some who were worried. But the plain facts were you were the most "adult" child of your age in the family. And a magical thing happened....you learned how to understand his speech better than anyone. It opened a world of real conversations with visitors for him, with you serving as interpreter when needed. He'd fry fish for the two of you when no help was around. Freeze great big persimmons for you to eat with a spoon like a treat. I think what meant the most for him was here he was given a chance as a sober man with a child. A chance to recapture some of the things he missed by his own choices with his own children.
When Daddy & I went through our troubles, Junior would always want an update from me. I ended up doing a lot of sharing with him about how God was getting me through it and what He was doing in the situation. He would shake his head in worry, and rejoice at every turn of good news.
In the late 90's, they say Junior needs heart surgery. He goes in, but suffers one stroke after another. Ends up on life support. After an agonizing time, the family all came together to turn the "help" off and leave it up to God and Junior. He did better than they thought he would. I think he was giving everyone time to say goodbye. And then he was gone.
How I wish Bug could have known her Paw Paw. In many ways they are kindred spirits. I recall how she screamed all the way from Beaumont when we brought her home, but as soon as I stepped out of the car with her on this hill, she opened her eyes and become quiet. Like Junior, she was home.