I was his twenty-ninth grandchild and lived three hundred miles away, but that didn't stop me from having a personal relationship with my grandpa. He was born in 1903 in the hills of Kentucky. He was a tall, slender man with a head full of white hair. It seemed he always had a five o'clock shadow that was snow white and rough to the touch, but he had such a sweet smell about him. He was in his seventies when I was born, but he always got down on my level. He gave me a different kind of love.
As he approached fifteen he left home to explore life as a man. Still a young man he met a young girl whom he later fell in love with. He gathered up enough courage to ask her father for her hand in marriage. He endured a lot of early hardships that would not even apply to our lives now. His wife had two stillbirths and twins who died of whooping cough before their first birthday.
They continued to hold on to each other for support and love and raised twelve children together during the depression. He also sent three of his young sons to World War II. He couldn't even drive a car until he was in his forties. Education was always so important to him and it was really reflected in all of his children and grandchildren. He raised his children with impeccable values and morals. My mother was number eleven out of the twelve.
I can still remember all of the trips to "Papaw's" when I was just a little girl. We lived in the city and he lived on a big farm in Kentucky with horses, cows, kittens, chickens and a big pond in which to swim and fish. I loved visiting him. We could just let loose and have fun. He always managed to make our time together special. We would take long walks down the rocky road to the barn where we would laugh and throw rocks into the pond. I would look forward to our adventures together. I think I can give him credit for bringing out the tomboy in me.
He had a structured daily routine that didn't stop just because I was there. Papaw would wake up bright and early and eat his breakfast alone at the bar. Then he would walk into the family room and call "Breakfast is ready, last call for breakfast". It always seemed funny to me that he didn't do any of the preparing of the food he just called me to it. I would slowly get my clothes on and join my grandma in the kitchen to eat.
While I ate, Papaw was getting ready for his day. He would put his ripped and torn jean overalls on over his long johns. He would then put on his black socks full of holes even though he had a drawer full of new ones. I guess he thought he didn't need to dress up for the animals. He would always wait to put on his dirty boots and hat until he got to the garage. I think grandma had a hand in that. Then he would stick his head into the kitchen and say "Rosebud aren't you done yet". That was his nickname for me. It didn't matter how soiled or smelly I was he still called me rosebud.
I quickly put on my shoes and coat and met him in the garage. My job was to get the scraps from grandma so we could feed the cats. It never failed: every time we approached the cats with their babies he would try to send one of the kittens home with me even though I was allergic. He still knew how much I loved them. We would continue to feed the rest of the animals. At night he would swing me in his towel and sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". Sometimes I thought I was a little bit heavy for him. When we had to leave to go home he would slip a dollar in my pocket. I was supposed to buy myself an ice cream on my way home. I never let my parents forget.
The only time I saw the stubborn and angry temper he had was when the animals would act up or the time grandma left the gate open and the cattle got out. Other than that he was the most gentle man I knew, although I only saw him four times a year and I may be a little partial.
When my grandma died a part of him died with her because he was never the same after that. I went to see him after that, when I was a confident teenager and he was in his eighties and suffering. I leaned down to kiss him at his bedside and he grinned and said "Well, honey you've turned into a rosebush". Later that month we received a call that his fight to live was over. He had joined my grandma in the sky. He will always hold such a special and tender part of my heart.
He left us with a lot to be proud of. He was a hard working, honest man with a lot of love to go around and then some. He was married a little over seventy years when my grandma died. He died with eleven children still living, thirty-one grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.
He is gone now, but he left us with a lifetime of memories.