My father's father passed away two weeks ago today. My mother's father passed away 22 years ago this week. Both of these men were big influences in my life and I am so very thankful to have had them as long as I did. I've thought a lot about both of them lately, especially with father's day coming up. I bet this one will be a little bittersweet for Dad. Papa battled Parkinson's and was in the nursing home for the last 7 years. It was a struggle to watch a man that was once so active slowly dwindle away. Although it's tough to say goodbye, there is so much comfort in the fact that he is so much better now. I decided that I wanted to share a little bit about the man I called Papa at his funeral. I wasn't sure if I could do it, because I'm pretty sentimental and tend to cry pretty easily, but I prayed about it a great deal and I definitely felt God with me as I spoke. I thought I would share my words from that day with you all.
To most he was John, to some John Allen, but to me he was Granddaddy...well, until Dale came along, and after a short stint of calling him John, Dale named him Papa. Papa stuck and he became Papa to a lot of folks over the years.
Papa grew up in the hills and hollers of Giles County. He and his brothers made a lot of mischief while growing up, so much so they used to tell that when they would enter an "establishment," it would get quiet and people would say "Here come the Pierce Boys." I can't imagine what life was like for Katie Lee having to put up with those "Pierce Boys" as her 4 brothers!
Those Pierce Boys were also known for story-telling. They could spin a yarn with the best of them. If you believed everything they told, you'd wonder how they ever made it to adulthood! But, they did and the love and concern they had for each other carried on through the years.
I am thankful that I got to experience them as an adult so that I could truly understand their bond. A little over 10 years ago, Papa's brother Bert was living in East TN. Both of their health was beginning to decline, so Mom and Dad loaded us all up and we made the trip to visit Bert and Edith and their family. When we arrived, and Papa and Uncle Bert first saw each other, they both cried. After we all shed a few tears, the tears soon turned to stories, and we all enjoyed the day together with family.
Papa also looovvvved to travel. Over the years he and Granny lived in Florida and traveled a good bit, but Tennessee was always home. When Dad was 13 years old they made a trip out West in their first new car, a 1963 Ford Falcon. It was before the Interstate and road system that we have today, and they were headed up Pike's Peak. Granny was down in the floorboard, scared to death. Despite her fussing and praying, Papa plowed right on up the mountain.
The summer after I graduated from high school, Granny and Papa took the three of us grandkids to Disney World. Not long after we were on the road, we realized that Granny didn't fuss about my driving near as much as she did Papa's, so I did most of the driving to Orlando and back. Whether he die because he trusted me, or just to keep Granny's fussing to a minimum, it meant a lot to me.
So, whether it was going to Dale's ballgames, taking the grandkids to Gatlinburg or Washington DC, a bunch of day care kids camping at Davy Crockett State Park, or Mrs. Lois Davis and Mrs. Effie Richardson to Blue Ridge Mtn Bible Camp, Papa was ready to go!
Papa also loved to tinker and build things. Most of his jobs over the years involved hands on construction of some sort. Although he quit school before graduating, he had a Master's Degree in a lot of things. In fact, he owned a glass business for several years. He got a big job once in Kentucky, and he loaded up T.J., Ray and my Dad in his motor home and set out. There soon was a competition amongst everyone to see who could fall asleep first because Papa snored like a freight train. I'm pretty sure Uncle T.J. snored too. Dad said it would still be daylight outside, but he'd be in the bed praying to go to sleep.
In his "retirement" years, if you could call them that, Papa was still very active. He rarely slowed down and he was ALWAYS working on something. Back in the early 90's my parents built a new house, and we as a family did a great deal of the construction ourselves. When it came time to lay the hardwood flooring, I soon found my job as the "go-between." As much as Papa loved to talk, Dad doesn't. So, my job was to read Dad's mind about which piece should be laid next, and to repeat everything to Papa. He had perfected the art of selective hearing over the years, and I think it finally caught up with him. He couldn't hear thunder!
In his later years, he probably should have had hearing aids, but it was really more trouble that they were worth. When you went to visit him at the nursing home, you had to get right in his ear to talk. He had good days when he recognized us and could carry on conversation or he would tell you who had come by to visit him that day. He also had bad days that really weren't so bad compared to some of the other residents; he was just busy carrying a load of tires to Florida or getting donkeys out of the barn. One day, Randy and I went in and I sat on the edge of the bed next to his chair and Randy was standing at the foot of his bed in his line of sight. I leaned right in his hear and said "Hey Pop!" He blinked a few times, and we weren't sure it was a good or not so good day. Then he said "Hey there Randy, take a seat." It was a good day.
Although you may not have realized it, he almost always knew those who came to visit him. He would tell Dad who had been by that day. Your visits and love for him meant so much to him and we as a family truly appreciate it.
John Allen Pierce was a man among men. He loved to laugh and be silly, loved to talk, loved to sing, loved his family, loved his church family, and loved the Lord. It's this love that will carry on through all of us...
So Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers out there. I hope you all know that your legacy lives on in your children and grandchildren. And, if you are fortunate to still have your father with you, give him an extra hug this weekend and let him know what he means to you.