Saying Goodbye. - Behind the Camera and Dreaming

Saying Goodbye.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Since my grandfather was transferred to hospice about 3 weeks ago and especially since learning of his passing last Wednesday morning, I have had this running dialogue in my head of what I would write in his memory. I wanted to document something, keep a record of the thirty one years I've had him in my life. The countless holidays, weekends, Sunday dinners, and summer vacations I spent with him. All the good stuff just rolled into one well thought out and poignantly said post, but that has proven itself harder as the days pass to put all of those memories and thoughts into words to honor him. I wish I had sat and wrote before the funeral because now thinking of him seems to leave more of a hole than it did when I was nostalgic about his life with us as it was coming to an end, but I'll do my best and hope you'll bare with me.

August 28, 1928 - July 30, 2014

(a modified version of his obituary) 
J W, 85, a resident of the Branch Community, went home to the Lord Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at Hospice Ministries in Madison. 
J W was born in the Red Oak Community in Rankin Co on August 28, 1928. The family moved to the Branch Community in 1933 and he graduated from the Branch School in 1949.
J W married Mary “Sue” on April 8, 1949 and they were happily married for 65 years. They continued to live in the Branch Community until 1955 when they moved to the greater Jackson area and retired back to Branch in 1979. He was a member of the Branch Baptist Church.
J W loved his family very much and they were the light of his life. He enjoyed the family visits and often had grandchildren and great grandchildren staying over. He also loved riding horses and tending to his cows. Hunting was a favorite pastime. When he was growing up, his nick name was “J bird”. He was known as, “Papa Joe,” to all the grandkids and close friends.
He retired from Delta Cotton Oil and Fertilizer Co/Jackson Oil Mill Inc in 1987 after 32 years.
He is survived by his wife, Sue of Branch, daughter Darlene (Steve) of Pearl, sons Jerry (Hollie) of Florence, Danny (Jennie) of Branch and Timothy  (Karen) of Branch, thirteen grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren. He is also survived by three sisters, Flossie, Justine and Geneil and one brother Donald.
Pallbearers were grandsons; Joshua, Matthew, Crisler, Joseph and David. Honorary pallbearers were, grandson, Jeremy and Nicols; grandson-in-laws; Joey, Wesley, Jonathan and Clay and great grandsons; Vance and Jarret.
The man had such a full life filled with family (lots of family) and friends that thought of him as family. When learning of his death and posting a memorandum on Facebook the day of his visitation, between my sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles there were responses from childhood friends of ours, their parents,  previous girlfriends, boyfriends, and even ex-husbands and wives. I guess to say the least; he made an impact, an impression on them that they hadn’t forgotten all these years later.
Maybe it was the way we talked about him or reported that we had to go to grandma and papa joe’s on this Sunday or that occasion or the fact that they were always invited. If you had a friend over, met a new boy, dated a girl from college or half way around the world, you brought them to meet Grandma and Papa Joe. There was no calling him Mr. Torrence either; it was always just Papa Joe. The name my oldest cousin made up for him at some point in toddlerhood – because his name certainly isn’t “Joe” or any version of it. It wasn’t like we called him Papa… Joe either it was more like papajoe like you would say grandma – all one word. Just so we’re clear.
Maybe it was the way he teased us relentlessly about this or that or how you were just expected to give it right back because that’s what he expected that made him so memorable. From as early as I can remember, we claimed our meanness came from him – which was a laughable good thing in our eyes by the way. The ability to good-heartedly tease someone in order for them to warm up to you was a gift and that is was something I feel like he passed to the next generation and the next and maybe even the next. He’d embarrass me as a child – pointing out my freckles. He had a saying that would turn me bright red and send me hiding “She’s got freckles on her BUT… she’s pretty”. It was a tease because BUT could have easily meant “butt” and he’d never admit it.  For as much teasing as there was, he was never short on affections. I couldn’t have a visit with him without hearing “I love you”. You didn’t walk past him upon arriving on his porch without hearing “girl, where’s my kiss?” or “come hug my neck”. So, in the end, when he couldn't say those things anymore, we all just knew because he'd said them thousands of times before, but we made sure he knew we loved him. I honestly had a really hard time visiting him after he no longer seemed himself. It felt really good about a week and half before he passed to walk in the room speak to him and he crinkled his nose at the sound of my voice, essentially giving me a stink face. It was so him, I left happy. The last two times he wasn't able to do that, but he knew we were there. After those visits I left in tears, because I already missed him and felt nostalgic for an earlier and easier time. These third trimester raging hormones didn't help either. I longed for a time when I wouldn't have to explain death to my 2 1/2 year old. A time when I wouldn't constantly think about having a baby that would never know papa joe. I have even longed for a time when my husband could have known him prior to his stroke 10 years ago. Wesley missed knowing him pre-stroke by a few months and honestly it's always made me a little sad. He survived and thrived even for nearly ten years after having a stroke that took a lot of him away. So, now I'm choosing to remember the Papa Joe that taught me so much growing up and loved us in spite of our bumps in the road and rebellion along the way. I will remember and tell my sons about the man that was so tenderhearted he refused to brush my hair because of the amount that came out in the hair brush the one time he tried. I will remember the man who would be nearly sick if one of us got a bump on the head or a scraped knee on his watch. I will remember the man that I shadowed through the garden in the early morning hours during the summer picking vegetables I'd later refuse to eat. The plums though, oh the plums his tiny orchard produced, they were the best I'd ever eaten - straight from the tree. I will remember the man who rode us on the tractor and never left us behind for his daily duties. The man who let me fill the feed buckets and named all his cows. The man who took me on my first horse back rides and let me ride in front of him because I was too scared to go by myself. I will remember the man who let me ride in the back of his truck where I can remember exactly how the wind felt on my face going down a country road in the heat of summer. I will remember him putting me on his lap in that same old blue truck and insist I take the wheel. I thought for sure he let go and I was doing the driving all by myself. I will remember turning the knobs to find a country station on the radio you could barely hear over the static. I will remember checking coke bottle trot lines and him bating my hook because worms and raw meat - yuck. I will remember him pulling mud from the pond to clean his hands and telling me it was just like soap. I will never forget hanging fish from the pecan trees to clean them and him making us touch the grossest parts. I will remember the thousand times he hung the hammock in the front yard and the thousand times someone knocked it down. I'll remember how he'll never let me forget I broke his screen door and they never found a good enough replacement. (This happened when I was probably 12 and he mentioned it in the last few months to Wesley - I mean NEVER let me live it down). I will remember the man who could identify a bird so easily by just hearing them sing. I will remember the countless hours we spent on the porch listening, watching, waiting for the sun to come up or go down. He'd drink his coffee and just sit. I want to be more like that. I'm sure he had plenty of worries at that time, but for me he was just looking out over his place, from his porch, surrounded by what he loved and that included all of us.
I could go on and on with memories and lessons and things I got to experience because of him, but at the top of the list is his love. He married a woman (a girl) at age 20 and made a life with her for 65 years. The song "all because two people fell in love" never rang so true. We will miss you Papa Joe, but your memory will never be forgotten. Promise.

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3 comments

  1. I loved reading this! The dates of his life caught my eye... my grandpa was born on Aug. 30 and went to see Jesus on July 28. As I was reading through your beautiful words I remembered my Papa Bill. I'm so sorry for your sadness, but so thankful for these great men in our lives and what they mean! Thank you for sharing your heart!

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  2. Sending all the hugs I have to you. It will get easier with time, but you'll never forget...my grandfather passed in 1995 and there's not a day that I don't think of him...and of course, I named Abbie after him. What a beautiful life he lived. <3

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  3. Sending lots of hugs your way! So many wonderful thoughts and memories you shared to keep your grandfather near and dear to your heart. My grandpa passed away six years ago and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him. Especially now that I have my little guy who is named after him.

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