He was a stern man, but seemingly I got by being on his sweet side. He had the greatest smile that lit up the rest of his face like the Fourth of July. And boy did that face light up when he saw his granddaughters. Yup, apparently girls run in the family because there were 5 born before the first baby boy came around, and he was appropriately named James. (Same deal on my Mom's side...there were 4 girls born before the first boy appeared!) You know now that I am seriously hoping for a little girl...hell, I'd even settle for 2 of them. Anyway, back to my story...
I wasn't the first granddaughter on Pappy's side of the family, I was the third. So maybe his roughness got used up on the first two, but there was always a sweet spot in Pappy's heart for me. One year (I was maybe 10), I remember having Christmas at his and my grandmother's house and all the grandkids got presents of course. But after the last present was opened and the living room cleared, Pappy said, "Phyllis (my grandmother), one present didn't get opened! Niki, do you see it under the tree?" I stooped and saw nothing and told him so. Then he got that silly grin on his face and said, "What if you look IN the tree?" I circled the tree and immediately spotted a long box and pulled it out. It had my name on it! He smiled and urged me to open it and inside was a gold chain necklace that was beautiful and at 10 years old, it was the most expensive necklace I had! I ran to him with a great big hug and lots of kisses! What a happy Christmas that was, and not just because of the present, but the man behind the present. I still have it to this day and even though it is tarnished I can't bring my self to get rid of it because of the memories it holds.
And below is the poem my Dad once again read at his funeral that I wrote.
By Niki Vance (Rowe)
May 11, 1920 - March 24, 2001
The onery old man
that always had a gentle hand
A present hidden in the
A smart remark for
But a sweet smile and the smell of
mint chewing tobacco whenever hugged and kissed him
He watched me grow up and
I watched him grow older and
sick -- too sick.
I watched him struggle to
walk and breathe,
but he never forgot to tell me he
loved me and be onery to everyone around him.
But that's Pappy.
The last time I saw him,
he didn't see me.
He "held" my hand and I kissed
his balding head.
And when he released his final breath,
the nurse said to him,
"You did real good Bud."
He definitely did.
His family and friends are proof.
He did real good.
This is my Pappy and he is always remembered and loved, even though he isn't on earth anymore. I know he is giving Jesus a heck of a time up in Heaven! Love you!
How come my memoirs always reduce me to tears?! I guess meaningful memories do that.