Happy Grandparents’ Day!

"Papa" Wilson and Martha, his second wife, before their garden in Dungeness, WA, 1962, where they maintained a completely self-sufficient lifestyle (except coffee, tobacco, flour and sugar) for over a decade using goats for milk, cheese, even ice cream, as well as both egg-laying and frying chickens. Papa hated paying taxes, and moved to Washington after Colorado where he had moved with Martha onto a similar farm after retirement from the Forest Service precisely because there was no state income tax, enacted one.

“Papa” Wilson and Martha, his second wife, before their garden in Dungeness, WA, 1962, where they maintained a completely self-sufficient lifestyle (except coffee, tobacco, flour and sugar) for over a decade using goats for milk, cheese, even ice cream, as well as both egg-laying and frying chickens. Papa hated paying state income taxes, and had recently moved to Washington State after Colorado – where he had moved onto a similar farm after retirement precisely because there was no state income tax – betrayed him and enacted one.

No morning passes that I don’t check to see what news may have sprouted from the Pope of Surprises, and today he surprised me again. As he ran down his weekly list of blessings during today’s Sunday morning talk from the window of his “unused” apartment, he included a blessing for Spanish grandparents in honor of Spain’s sixteenth annual Grandparents’ Day, which, as far as I can see, is only celebrated in that country. Well, I think it’s time to change that.

Here is the short text of the Vatican Radio dispatch:

“Pope Francis has sent a message celebrating the role grandparents play in the life of faith for a XVI Grandparents Day in Spain, which will be celebrated on Sunday, the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, who are the parents of the Virgin Mary, and therefore the grandparents of Jesus.

“Pope Francis sent the message through the Apostolic Nuncio to the country, inviting the elderly to reaffirm their faith in the closeness of the Lord, “who does not abandon them in any situation”, and in the belief that they can still contribute, “with the influence of their words of wisdom and cherished gestures”, in the life and growth of the members of their own families, “at a level which is profoundly human, spiritual and of the faith.”

Now, I’m not sure how Catholic historians know the names of  Mary’s parents, much less where they got the mythic story that has grown up around them (you can Google it if you’re interested), but the basic idea of Grandparents’ Day seems to me to be a really good one, and I only wish it had come along early enough for me to have honored my own grandparents when they were still alive. But, “better late, than never” is really true, no matter how trite, so, I’m adopting it here and now, as best I can, and I say to any who read this, LET’S ALL DO THIS! Who doesn’t love and appreciate and honor her grandparents? This is a no-brainer, if ever there was one, and so I encourage you to do to things TODAY: 1) IF ANY OF YOUR GRANDPARENTS ARE STILL LIVING, CALL THEM TO WISH THEM HAPPY GRANDPARENTS’ DAY (Shall we say, following Spain’s lead, that it should fall on the 4th Sunday of every July going forward?), and 2) SHARE THIS IDEA IN WHATEVER WAY YOU THINK BEST TO GET IT INGRAINED IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF GRANDCHILDREN EVERYWHERE.

For my part, I’m going to share this blog post on Facebook and link to it from my Twitter account (@ganid) in the hope that it might get the ball rolling – and who knows, maybe it will be a snowball going downhill. As it happens, both of my sisters are now relatively new grandparents, and even though our grandparents – whom I lift up and honor as best I can below – are long dead, nothing would please me more than to inspire a day that would, among many billions of other things, honor their lives, the lives of my sisters, and – if you are also a grandparent – you!

Our Four Fascinating Forebears and the One We Never Knew (But Look Forward to Meeting Some Day)

Daddy’s Side: the nutshell: Daddy’s parents were Thomas Atlee Wilson and Addie Belle Mick, both the children of parents who participated in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 and natives of Kingfisher. After their marriage, they moved East, first to Arkansas where Tom tried his hand at farming before becoming a life-long U.S. Forest Service Ranger beginning in 1913. He served in Buena Vista, VA (where Daddy was born), Marion, NC (where Daddy graduated from high school) and Grayson, AL (where, though Papa Wilson had, by then, retired to Colorado, Daddy and Mama moved the day after they were married in December of 1948; and also the hamlet where I spent the first seven years of my life).

Thomas and Addie Belle Wilson in 1920 with their three remaining children: Virginia on Papa's lap, Bettie with the big bow, and YES, that's Papa Hank himself on his mother's knee!

Thomas and Addie Belle Wilson in 1920 with their three remaining children (eldest son, Wesley, had died only a year earlier): Virginia on Papa’s lap, Bettie with the big bow, and YES, that’s Papa Hank (My Dad) himself on his mother’s knee!

Addie Belle Mick Wilson, who was 50 when she died from a fall, toward the end of her life.

Addie Belle Mick Wilson toward the end of her life. She was 50 when she died from a fall in her basement.

Tom Wilson’s wife, Addie Belle, was a talented musician who taught piano throughout their marriage and was always a church pianist/accompanist/organist wherever they may have lived. She died when Daddy was only 18 after she fell in her basement and bumped her head on a trunk (according to the local paper), so we never knew her and, of course, Daddy always held her on a pedestal.

Papa Wilson then “scandalized” his daughters (Bettie and Virginia – there was also a first born son, Wesley, who had tragically died of lockjaw at the age of eight, exactly ten months, as it happened, before Daddy was born in December of 1919) by marrying his 28-year-old housekeeper, Martha May Hampton of Laurence, AL, who would remain with him for nearly four decades, until her death at the age of 66 in 1976. Papa Wilson actually lived to the age of 98, spending his last ten or so years with Daddy and our step-mother Betty (who laid up much reward in heaven for her gracious generosity on Papa’s behalf) in Fort Valley, GA.

Grandmama and Granddaddy come for a visit, Easter Sunday 1963. That's Mama in the middle, of course, with Miriam, new sister Mary Baker, and me.

Grandmama and Granddaddy come for a visit, Easter Sunday 1962. That’s Mama in the middle, of course, with Miriam, new sister Mary Baker, and me with a missing tooth.

Mama’s Side: the nutshell: The die was cast when Miriam West Moore of Bessemer, AL, a  elementary school teacher newly graduated from Montevallo Teacher’s College for Women, took a job at the McElwain School on the eastern edge of Birmingham, and took a room next door in the home of W. B. and Jennie Hogan Baker, whose large family of six sons and two daughters were beginning to leave the nest, making room for a boarder. And, as fate would have it, their son, George Green Baker, having recently returned from fighting in the trenches of WWI, was also living in the house of his parents.

Grandmama, Grandaddy and me, 1950, in front of their house at 4425 Montevallo Road. The house was razed about 30 years ago to make way for a strip mall. After Uncle Bubba's funeral, we ate in a Chinese restaurant in the exact same spot where my grandmother's kitchen used to be.

Grandmama, Grandaddy and me, 1950, in front of their house at 4529 Montevallo Road. The house was razed about 30 years ago to make way for a strip mall. After Uncle Bubba’s funeral, we ate in a Chinese restaurant in the exact same spot where my grandmother’s kitchen used to be.

The Baker family had founded one of Birmingham’s earliest commercial dairies in 1905, and by the late teens, it was a thriving business that provided more than enough work and opportunity for the Baker boys, almost all of whom spent their lives in the service of W.B.Baker & Sons Dairy. By the time Daddy and Mama met after the second World War, W. B. had died, and Mr. George, as everyone always called my Granddaddy, was already well settled as the President of the Dairy, and had become one of the most effectively down-to-earth leaders of men it has ever been my pleasure to meet, much less watch in action.

These were the Grandparents we saw most often – the ones we called Grandmama and Granddaddy – and the ones who had the most influence on our lives. They raised five children, of which Mama was the second-born and eldest of two daughters. Eldest son Joe went on to develop a huge swath of Birmingham (on old pastureland once used for the dairy) into what is today called Mountaindale, second son Ned succeeded Granddaddy as President of the dairy when he died in 1968 at the age of  76, daughter Peggy married a man who would become the head of sales for the huge Riverside Masterbuilt Uniform Company, and youngest son, Edgar (my Uncle Bubba), would make several fortunes buying and selling various Birmingham businesses. Grandmama outlived Granddaddy by only three years, and those were spent on Alzheimer’s downward spiral, but in her day, you might say our grandmother was a solid woman. She had begun her adulthood as a teacher, and it was a role she never relinquished, though she stopped working professionally when she and Mr. George married in 1921.

Grandmama with her daughters, Peggy on the left and Mama on the right, posing for a fashion feature in the Birmingham News about 1946.

Grandmama with her daughters, Peggy on the left and Mama on the right, posing in front of her custom built 1924 Montevallo Road home for a fashion feature in the Birmingham News about 1946.

Now, a quick story about Mr. George, and I’ll let you go… Except for Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, Granddaddy always, always wore the same dairyman ‘uniform’ (bought, in later years, from Uncle Charlie, of course) that included a long-sleeved khaki work shirt starched to a fare-thee-well, a pair of khaki work pants with equally sharp creases, and a little black bow tie.  And one day, about 1966, when he was mowing his large lawn on Montevallo Road with the company bushhog (that’s a tractor with a mower on the back for my city readers), a stranger drove up his winding driveway in a shiny new car, got out, and walked over to where Granddaddy was mowing in his daily khakis.

“Mister,” he said, “Listen. I just bought that new house right down the road here, and I was wondering, do you think you could mosey over to my yard when you finish here and mow it for me?”

“Why, I’d be happy to, ” Mr. George said in his wrap-around, earthy-but-elegant Birmingham accent. “Now which house was that, exactly?”

The man gave him directions and went on his way, while Granddaddy finished up his yard, drove down the road to mow the man’s yard, then stowed the tractor in the dairy garage where it lived.

“Ma’am,” the man said when my grandmother answered her door a couple of hours later, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I need to get the name and phone number of your yard man, please ma’am. I spoke to him a little earlier and he was good enough to go down and mow my yard, too, and I need to pay him, but I don’t even know his name.”

“George!” Grandmama turned and yelled down the hall. “There’s some man here to see you.”

Clearly embarrassed, the new neighbor offered Mr. George the few bucks it would have normally cost in those days to get his lawn mowed, but Granddaddy just smiled, shook his head and said, “No, son. You need that money a whole lot more than I do, so thank you just the same, but you keep it. I was just happy to help.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that almost all of you have similar loving stories to tell of your own grandparents, so, my friends, YES, let’s do this. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to follow the Spanish lead and wish a great day to all grandparents, everywhere. It’s an honor that is long over due.

And, if you are one, Happy Grandparents’ Day to you and all grandparents, everywhere!

© 2015 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted in Angels, belief, faith, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Love, miracles, Pope Francis, prayer, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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