Holding on to precious memories

The past few weeks have been the hardest of my life.

I watched and waited, along with the rest of my family, as my grandfather suffered and then, slowly, died.

We called him Pappy, and he loved me as no one ever has and no one ever will.

As the first grandchild of only three of us, I named him Pappy, and he always called me &uot;Doll Baby.&uot;

I write that at the risk of all sorts of teasing; but I don’t mind. It was an honor to be Pappy’s doll baby, and it’s a special memory that I’ll always have that he never, ever &045; not once that I can remember, anyway &045; called me by my real name.

I have a lot of Pappy memories.

Pappy taught me to tie my shoes. I never was very good at that, so I’ve always just worn shoes that slip on.

Pappy taught me to play dominoes, Pinochle and Double Solitaire.

And then there was the time Pappy told my little brother to get over in the backseat of the car &045; the front seat belonged to me, he said. It’s that attitude that I still cling to every single day.

I remember Pappy used to tell my cousin and my brother that he was gonna &uot;come on them like a ton of bricks&uot; if they didn’t stop whatever it was they were doing. I don’t ever remember him disciplining any of us, by the way.

I remember how Pappy conquered an elevator to come see me when I had my appendix out in the third grade, and I remember the song he taught us to sing about Phenix City, a place in which he was proud to live.

Pappy told us many, many stories about growing up in Phenix City, known to many as Sin City, Ala., the site of some of the worst crime in the state during that era.

He used to tell us how he skipped school to go down to Ma Beachie’s tavern to play the slot machines.

Pappy’s family, in fact, were moonshiners during that time period, and I can remember riding with him to the place where his daddy used to have the moonshine still. Like everything else has changed, that area’s all developed now.

I remember the day Pappy was baptized by my daddy, and I remember the day Neena (my grandmother) and Pappy celebrated their 50th anniversary. On that day, he surprised us all when he laid one on my grandmother like I don’t ever remember seeing.

My most recent memories are of our National Lampoon’s Parker Fun-Filled Family Vacations, the first to Gatlinburg. That’s right, the hillbilly capital of the world.

We had a great time and dragged Pappy from one tourist attraction and shopping extravaganza to the next. He would complain and then we’d catch him smiling and laughing.

Our next National Lampoon’s adventure was this past July to Orange Beach.

It had been years since Pappy had been to the beach, and he told us on the way home that he was sure he had bothered us, but we could rest assured that we had bothered him, too.

He loved it, but as my brother said, he loved going home even better.

That’s where he is now &045; home &045; and although I’m still struck by the finality of it, I’m comforted by that thought.

As my cousin’s 2-year-old, Alex, said, &uot;Happy went to see Jesus.&uot;

Deep in the pain, that thought really does bring me comfort.

My Pappy memories come to me at the strangest times and my eyes fill with tears. I guess it will be that way for a while.

Eventually, I hope, though, that the image of a suffering Pappy during that last week will fade and all I’ll be left with are the precious thoughts of the grandfather I loved so much.

I’m counting on that, in fact.

Candace Parker is the news editor at the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at mailto:candace.parker@shelbycountyreporter.com