My grandfather answered to the name, Papaw. He loved to sit in solitude on the porch swing with a hot cup of coffee and just reflect. To enjoy the wakening of each morning was one of many things I learned from him. He said that a man’s time alone was given by God to gather his heart and make peace with the past. He was a man of charisma and pride, yet those who knew him admired his strength and standard of dignity. I believe that of all who knew him, I was his biggest admirer. For me, he is always my favorite among men.
Memories of Papaw are many; for now, I will tell you of only one. My family lived two blocks from Papaw’s house. On Saturday’s I loved to walk to his house, eat supper with him and climb into the big feather bed found in the guest room. It snuggled against you as you sank into a cavern of feathers and fresh crisp sheets.
My two brothers usually joined me on our weekly trek. Following a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in Heresy’s chocolate syrup, and Gunsmoke we went to bed. Papaw tucked us in and kissed us goodnight. As he walked toward the door, he paused, turned to look at us and say, “Now, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you.”
That phrase was the signal to squeak out, “Peep!” A smile grew on our faces knowing he turning around and running back to our bed to tickle us until we were in tears. He laughed right along with us. Papaw did this at least a couple of times before he closed the door a final time. We continued to “peep” until we realized we had, had our fun and drifted into the world of calm sleep and security he provided. One Saturday we enjoyed the usual supper, ice cream and Gunsmoke. When we were tucked into bed and told not to make a “peep,” Papaw closed the door without returning to tickle us. Puzzled, all three of us began to yell, “Peep!” We paused and yelled, “Peep, peep!” Where was our tickle? We wanted to be tickled.
Finally a smile grew on our faces as the door opened. To our horror, Papaw came in with a belt and spanked us across the legs and yelled, “I told you I don’t want to hear a peep!” In a split second of frustration and anger years of tradition and fun exploded into a million splinters of hurt and tragic memories. Physical pain was only temporary; disappointment that Papaw was angry at us for no apparent reason is what lingers.
Sunday morning, Papaw gathered us in his arms and told us how sorry he was about his actions last night. He had some things at work that were upsetting him and he was sorry he took his frustrations out on us.
“Will you forgive me?” He asked.
James 1:19,20 Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be quick to hear,
slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man
does not produce the righteousness of God.
Of course we forgave him. Even though we were confused about his response to our play, we never held a moment’s anger, or resentment, against him.
The following Saturday we stayed with him again. We ate ice cream, watched Gunsmoke, and snuggled into the feather bed. He kissed us goodnight and as he walked to the door, he turned and said, “Now I don’t want to hear a peep.” Nothing needed to be discussed among us. We did not make a peep and Papaw did not reenter.
Papaw is gone now, and I have often wondered if he was standing on the other side of the door that night, waiting for our “peep.” I will never know the answer to that question. Today I am still saddened by his mistake. Oh, I know that as I grew older I would eventually outgrow this childhood fun. Why did it have to end this way? Understanding Papaw, and the kind of man I knew him to be, I know that he regretted his actions that night. I also know in my heart that the end of this adolescent play hurt him as much as it did us.
Like Papaw, each of us will have our moments of frustration. I use this hallmark as a guide in dealing with my grandchildren. What matters is that we are careful to control our response to childhood antics that leave lasting impressions. Memories should be those of love, and not regret for either of us.
Oh, and when we do lose control, remember like Papaw to ask, “Will you forgive me?”
I really miss you Papaw & Mamaw!