Grandparent’s Day

As far as grandparents go, I never knew my Grandfather Bowers. He died when I was two years old in 1952, and my Dad was in the Navy then so I’d been at my Mom’s parents house during my babyhood. As far as I know, from talking with people around town who knew him, he was a hard worker, a good gardener, and a stern disciplinarian. My Dad had already told me that all of his life. He loved his Daddy dearly, and kept his memory alive. I look back at the photos of him, and see that he was very diminutive in size, but steely eyed. Dad said he had a pretty strong temper. The strangest thing though, is that through my research on Ancestry, and through DNA results, I have a deep suspicion that he was legally “Mr Bowers” but perhaps not genetically. But, that’s a conversation for another day. My Grandpa Stewart lived to be 98, so I knew him well. As I once said in a lyric to one of my songs, which I wrote about: “I knew that old man well, he never gave a dime to me”. That was really a total fabrication though. Grandpa did open up his purse, which he kept in the upper pocket of his bib overalls occasionally, and give me money. He was a tight old Scot…but he did give me money for ice cream every day for the half year that I attended the fourth grade in Blue Ridge. He was a very musical man. He played Banjo and sang in a deep baritone voice. I emulated him so much that I once got up and led the church choir with him when I was four or five years old. I spent a lot of time there on weekends and in the summer. Grandpa taught me how to shoot a gun, and how to chop wood. He was a moonshine maker and a church deacon at the same time. He didn’t sell any, he just made it for himself….much to my Grandma’s displeasure. It would take a book to tell all I learned about him. I don’t have time here. I believe he loved me, although he never said it while he was in his right mind. Only one time at the nursing home, when he was in the deep grip of dementia did I hear him say it. I’m not sure he knew what he was saying. My Granny Bowers lived until she was 92. She had a rough life, but never really complained about it. She was quick to tell you her ailments…which were many, and to discuss them at length. At every visit, that would be a litany which had to be recited. She had born 19 children, but only 6 had lived to adulthood. Granny had O negative blood, which was not compatible with Grandpa’s. Most of her children died from premature birth. One set of triplets, two sets of twins, and several others…who never got names. The only one I remember Granny lamenting personally, was baby Pearl. “Pearl was the most beautiful baby” she would say. She lived past a year, but died of some childhood disease. None of them have stones. My grandparents were too poor to buy them. All of those kids were just buried in the old Trion cemetery in unmarked graves. Granny knew exactly where they were, and showed me several times. I know where Aunt Pearl the baby is buried, but I may be the only one who does. The depression was hard, hard on my Granny. She went on after Grandpa died and married Arthur Knox, a retired soldier from Kansas…who was a pretty decent guy. I learned how to play solitaire from him, and liked the scrapple he cooked up. My Grandma Stewart was the most influential grandparent I had. I always remember her gentle hand, and her loving heart for her family. She had eight children…all of who lived to adulthood. My Uncle Albert died tragically when I was four. It was one of the first things I remember vividly, because they had the viewing at my Grandparents house. It broke my Grandma’s heart, and my Mom’s…because she and Uncle Al were the closest in age. My Grandma Stewart was the best cook I ever knew. Her biscuits were legendary. Her fried chicken, and fried apples were divine. She was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. She’d be up before dawn, and would be on the go all day long doing something. In the summer it was picking vegetables and berries, canning, drying and preserving them. Best blackberry jam ever imaginable. Cleaning the house. Plucking and cooking the chickens after Grandpa chopped their heads off neatly. Cutting up the old hog in the wintertime. She always would tell me stories before bedtime every night I was there as a child. Jack in the Beanstalk, The Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She was never to busy to tell us stories. She always told us how much she loved us. At Christmastime she would go out in the woods with me, and chop down some little old pine or fir tree to decorate. She’d make sure there were oranges, apples and nuts around. We spent every Christmas there during my Childhood. Only remember one time that we didn’t go there. My Stewart grandparents lost their old house to a tornado in 1973. They bought a pretty nice mobile home to replace it. I think Grandma liked it better because it was more “modern”. Grandpa died in 1991, and Grandma lived there by herself, with one of my Uncle’s close by. She went into that “damned old nursing home” as she called it, about 1996..or 97, can’t remember exactly when. She hated it though. Mom and Dad came up most weekends to take her out to eat. I didn’t visit nearly enough…She always said she’d live to be 100 years old, and she did in August of 1999. She died in December that year, just a few weeks from being one of those rare people to have lived in three different centuries. I couldn’t help carry her coffin from the little old white church house to the cemetery like I had my Grandpa because I was still recovering from my first heart attack that year, so I walked slowly along next to her. She wasn’t a perfect person, but I loved her dearly. So, on this “grandparents day” I write this in honor of those beloved human beings who were my grandparents, and am thankful for all that we had together.

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