Reba McEntire has a song “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” that is one of the saddest of her songs. When I hear it though what I think of is my grandfather and my husband…and how they were the greatest men I EVER knew. I grew up with my mother marrying the worst examples of men on earth. Men that should never be fathers. Because of that my grandparents house was my refuge. I can remember hiding behind the door at my grandparents house to jump out and “scare” my grandpa when he came home from work…after having watched at the window for him for what seemed like hours. He always played along though I am sure looking back now as an adult he always knew just where I would be.
I can remember going to the lake with them and sitting around the domino table with them and their friends. The ribbing and joking being so different than what I was exposed to at home. I’m pretty sure I asked my grandma one time if PawPaw was “mad” at one of his friends after just such a domino game. I can remember my grandma freaking out when PawPaw was fixing something. I get my temper and sailor mouth straight from him when something isn’t going my way. I remember fishing with him. And him baiting the hook and cleaning the fish when I couldn’t.
I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my Em. I think my biggest fear was that I had let my grandpa down. I was so scared as I drove to their house. My aunt had called ahead. My grandparents met me at the door, my grandpa put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said “we’ll do anything we can to help”. The steadiness in his face gave me the courage to realize just how scared I was. When I was pregnant with her we must have gone to 100 garage sales looking for Sesame Street baby items because of course I picked a baby theme that wasn’t en vogue while I was pregnant. PawPaw never wavered from those early words and when my daughter was born holding her stopped the tremors in his hands the entire time he held her. That was magic to watch. And if you think he adored me? I was chopped liver compared to my kids – especially that little girl.
My Fred was so much like my grandpa it fully supported the adage women choose men like their fathers. Thank God I chose him and not someone like any of the abusive men my mother brought around. Fred and PawPaw were best buds. I think Fred being a fellow Aggie probably had a lot to do with that. #haha They could sit and talk for hours. Neither were afraid to give me the what for. Both emulated Godly men that I wanted my children to be around and grow up to be like. The picture above is one of my favorite. Taken about six months before we lost PawPaw it is one of the only ones in existence. Only missing is my Ames.
Fred was…Fred was our rock. The most interesting part of that is he led our family without doing it in an overbearing or authoritative way. Nothing was more important to him than his family. He silently and quietly supported us without us ever knowing just how much. I took care of the day to day stuff, no question, but what we didn’t realize until he was gone is how much we would miss all the simple things that became huge things when he wasn’t there. Him being in his chair when we walked in the door. Him asking about our day or our latest travel adventure. His silly dry humor jokes. Our “fashion shows” when we went back to school shopping and came home and he wanted to see everything we bought (no doubt grateful he didn’t have to deal with the crowds or fitting rooms). Simple questions to him that became sage life advice from him that all four of us would sell our souls for now. Fred’s guiding light was family. His was his whole world and what made him the happiest. He and PawPaw were a lot alike in that respect.
I often wonder what they think when they watch us now. I’ve been to hell and back in the last seven years as they have both left my life. I’d like to think they would be proud of me. They both taught me what it means to be strong and never stop fighting for my family. I lost some of the connection with God during those years but they would both be pleased I’ve turned back to Him. The last lyrics of Reba’s song “He never said he loved me, guess he thought I knew”? I am so blessed. The greatest men I ever knew? Told me every day, in every way, that they loved me.
Happy Father’s Day Fred and PawPaw. I love you.