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Papaws and Paps

grandfatherOn occasion, I like to reread my grandfather’s letters. While leafing through them, I’m saddened by what is being lost in modern communication. Soul-baring sentimentality isn’t typically poured into text messages, tweets and emails. All too often, personal connections are brushed aside for the sake of convenience in a fast-paced world. Kristina McMorris

Papaw Fitzwater always wore gray work clothes with a pocket protector in his shirt front. Papaw Sharp wore overalls and a flannel shirt, sometimes a white thermal shirt. They were practical men, worked hard and expected the same from everyone else. They were tall, thin, smiling men.

Papaw Fitzwater will forever be sitting in the passenger seat of a Buick while I drive. “Don’t ever sneeze while you are driving,” he warned. “You can’t sneeze with your eyes open.” When we got back home, he told my parents what an excellent driver I was. I was sixteen.

Papaw Sharp most often walks across the road from our house to his with his hands clasped behind his back, eyes cast down watching the rocky lane. I can still see him other ways, tilling and hoeing the garden, slobbering kisses all over Grandma and asking how his bride is doing today, even driving me home from school when I was sick.

But the way I see him most is that walk. The one that follows me through time. My father, his brothers, even I walk that way across the hill, down a trail. Thinking, contemplating, resting while we walk.

Grandfathers seem so distant compared to grandmothers that they often get the short end of the stick. But there are times when grandfathers have made me take notice of the soft hearts inside the hard men.

Like the time Matt’s grandfather told me the story of his nickname “Abe”. I thought he was joking that it came about because of his large nose. When I laughed, I saw all the pain of his youth mirrored in his eyes. Or the time I made light of Matt in front of his other grandfather. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember the fierce devotion that burned me with its flame.

Papaw Sharp gave me two books the year before he died. One was a cook book the other a canning book. “I got these for you. I thought they might be helpful.” That’s the grandfather mantra: Look out for the grandkids. Protect them, prepare them, and provide for them.

They did it perfectly. I love my Papaws and Paps.

 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Genesis 48:9 NIV