Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My birthday and my Papaw

I talked a little bit yesterday about how much my grandfather put into helping me celebrate my birthday over the years.

This post is hard for me to write. He passed away in the fall of 2002 and my birthday hasn't been the same since.

We were very close my whole life. When I was one my parents divorced and we moved in with my mom's parents. My Mamaw and Papaw.

They both put a lot of energy into making sure my brother and I had a happy childhood regardless of the circumstances, but for my Papaw it was extra important because he grew up in a broken home himself.

I always liked to eat and so did he. When I was little he would be out late some nights, well past my bedtime, but I would stay awake and wait for him. Then when I heard him come home I'd sneak out of bed and meet him in the kitchen for our traditional "midnight snack" where he'd make something like tomato crackers and a huge mess which would inevitably send my Mamaw over the edge. She hates for other people to make a mess in her kitchen. But we didn't care. We were hungry and it was fun, for both of us.

When my mom and step dad married I wasn't quite ready to leave the only home I'd ever known. I split my time between the two houses and I'm just now beginning to understand how inconvenient and frustrating that must have been. Especially for my mother. It made me happy then that I could do it that way, but now I've really come to appreciate the lengths my family was willing to go to in order to make my transition as smooth as possible. None of that stopped me from having a complete meltdown when I did finally make the move. Papaw hid in the basement while I packed all my stuff because he couldn't handle it.

But so, this week is about my birthday and he always made it as special as possible. When we lived there he would wake me up singing (alternately) the birthday song and "good morning to you" to the tune of the birthday song. Throughout the day he would always remind me it was my day, singing and acting silly for my benefit, to make me feel special. I ate it up and that just egged him on more. Andy sometimes gets annoyed with my never ending birthday celebrations, but he can thank Papaw for it. It's really all his fault.

As I got older he was still there making it as big as he could - buying and grilling steaks or marinating and smoking chicken for thirty or more people. All because it made me happy. All to celebrate the day I was born.

And then he was gone...

That was a huge disappointment for my whole family.

Papaw was a quiet man and he didn't speak often. When we all got together he would usually just sit and watch everything happen. He loved his big family and reveled in having them all around him. One of my favorite memories I have of him is how he would wait for everyone to show up. We always gathered at my grandparent's house (still do) and he liked to be there when we arrived. He'd put a lawn chair at the top of the driveway and sit and wait, but he inevitably feel asleep in it, sitting up, before anyone drove up. You'd drive around the last turn and see him, head slumped to the side in slumber, but he was there waiting on his family to come home.

His passing was just so unexpected and there is still a big void there when we're all together.

We all have our times when we miss him the most and for me it's my birthday. Every year since my 21st birthday I get excited for the buildup and then once the day arrives something is missing. It's him. I still cry every year when I read the card from my Mamaw and his name isn't on it.

This year won't be any different, but I'll still smile and celebrate my day. I'll do it as much for him as I do it for myself.


  1. This post brought tears to my eyes. My gpa made our birthdays and Christmas a big deal too. I'm glad you treasure those memories of him and the time he was here with you over the years.

  2. Thank you for this story!!!!!! I'm so glad you have such a good memory. What a blessing and gift of expression in writing you have.

    Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!

    We will celebrate more this week!

    Oh! Don't you know Papaw is waiting for his family to arrive and join him in heaven.