I made my daily visit to see my grandmother tonight. Mama Jo, as we call her, lives next door. My grandfather passed away over a year ago after 70 plus years of being married to her. Pop’s death has been difficult for her. She tells me she often cries because she sometimes expects him to be in his chair wrapped in his house robe watching television as usual. Then she realizes he’s not there and won’t ever be there again.
He rests beneath the earth in a Neely’s Bend Cemetary near Nashville, Tennessee where he lived most of his life. I wrote an article about him called, This World Needs No More Weeping That War Brings. You see, Pops fought in World War II aboard the San Jacinto.
The San Jacinto was an aircraft carrier that sailed and fought in the Phillipines and in the South China sea during World War II. It also happens to be the aircraft carrier that George H. Bush flew from as an Air Force pilot.
It’s a strange thing to describe my feelings about a relationship of knowing someone literally all my life and then suddenly there comes a day that they simply aren’t there. Pops and MaMa Jo have known me since I was born into this realm we call life; or whatever you want to call it. It is a kind of bond that is not easily severed.
Pops was a hard man but above all, he feared nothing. Nothing.
He raised five children while working at DuPont in Madison County, Tennessee. Those five children had children themselves and together as a clan we number 35. Pops was not one for meaningless banter. He would think before saying anything. Which is to say he wasn’t that spontaneous. Pops was a staunch conservative as well.
He had a lot of health problems during his life but towards the end he became very contemplative. I always imagined him looking back on his life at the horror which was the spectacle of war. Sometimes all of a sudden he would become as silent as the grave.
Then one night, shortly before he passed, Pops was watching the news, as he always did, and heard a comment that disturbed him. So he called my grandmother into the room and told her to sit down. Mama Jo was kind of taken aback.
It was very concerning for her but Pops called her into the room and told her to have a seat.
My grandmother told me this story tonight and when she said Pops said what he did, I could barely believe her. She told me Pops looked at her and said, “Jo, I’m worried.”
She said she asked him, “About what?” As she said it she said she could barely keep from being a little scared about what would come out of his navy goat mouth.
Pops asked, “How many grandchildren do we have?”
She replied, “Eleven. Why?” There was a long pause. Pops stared in silence at the television that, as usual, was turned to the news.
He said, “Jo, I’m worried that they [His grandchildren] may be called to fight in a war.”
My grandmother said she began to worry because she said he was very upset.
This from a man who when he was in the hospital with death smiling him in the face, smiled right back.
His love for his family was undeniable but the one thing he feared was seeing his grandchildren possibly drafted to fight in a war. Pops knew how horrible war was and that no one should have to experience or go through it. He couldn’t believe how cavalier some people’s attitude about war was. Quite frankly I have a hard time understanding that as well.