While scanning through radio stations driving home from work late yesterday afternoon, my finger paused on an old familiar tune that I hadn't heard in a while. It was Don Williams' song, "Good Ole Boys Like Me". By the song's end, I found myself misty-eyed as a million Sunday morning memories of my grandfather flitted through my mind like a music video.
Grandpa didn't attend church. He's never been one for crowds. But the rest of us attended every Sunday morning (and every other time the church doors were open). He stayed home and listened (religiously) to Don Williams Greatest Hits on vinyl while he read the Sunday paper and thumbed through old Oaklawn Racing forms. By the time I reached puberty, I knew every Don Williams song by heart, but by no means considered myself a fan (I was in to big hair bands then.)
The memories that the song evoked aren't connected to popular music of the decade though. The song reminded me of the man who stepped in without missing a beat when my father was murdered in 1978. Grandpa did this without batting an eye, for he was never one for drama, worry, or concern. Even-keeled and even-tempered, he opened his home to my mother, brother, and I and our extended family felt as natural and normal as any other that I knew through the years.
Grandpa is still with us. I didn't realize it at the time, but he and my grandmother were both still pretty young the year of my father's death. He was only 50. My grandmother passed away a few years back and an arsonist burned down the family homestead a short time thereafter. He now lives in the little house that adjoins my mother's property where he sits daily, reading the newspaper and thumbing through old racing forms. He also hums while he listens to the radio (that local station that plays old country music).
I know I should take time out of this crazy life to visit him more and write down the hundreds of stories that he's shared with me through the years. Someday, I will forget how much money my great-grandfather (his dad, a sharecropper) had at the beginning and end of each year of the Great Depression and the deprivations that he and his siblings endured. Someday, I will forget the time that he got out of bed in the middle of the night to help me rescue some tadpoles that I had left in a homemade mudhole in the dirt drive. Someday, I will forget that he let me drive his old pickup truck (just to the end of the dirt road and back) when I was much too young and that he was the first one to arrive at the scene when I crashed my dirt bike into a woodpile. Someday, I will forget the funny stories that he shared with me of losing his virginity, smoking marijuana, and of the time grandma peed on him through a hole in the porch floor after she forced him to crawl underneath to catch one of the hens and her new chicks. (Grandpa shares a lot these days :)
However, there is one thing that I will never forget: the man who assumed responsibility, the breadwinner, the counselor, the gentle giant, the good ole boy who raised me.