Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Granddaddy Joe

I had the great privilege of having all four grandparents on both my mother and father's sides of the family live until my early adulthood. I consider this one of the many blessings that I have had as they all played important roles in my life right up until their deaths. As fate would have it, my mother died very early at the age of 56 while I was still in my early 30's. I have always felt very robbed not having her in my life longer. Fortunately, she was always very involved in my life and very close to both of my children right up to her untimely death. As grace would have it though, I was blessed to also have had a great grandfather who lived until I was 8 years old. Even though my time knowing him was very short and I was so young when he died, the richness of this man's life likewise was a great influence on mine. My father's memories and colorful stories of Granddaddy Joe are priceless to me. I even have my father on a tape recording right before his death, recounting many early memories with his grandparents on their farm in Vernon, AL. My father was their first grandchild and I am sure, spoiled rotten by them and all of his aunts and uncles. But Daddy's vivid stories of the character of this man made him a true legend in our family. Unfortunately, my Daddy, Mama, and all the grandparents are gone to heaven to be with my beloved "Granddaddy Joe" now, so I only have the memories and old stories to recall. Last week however, a second cousin of mine in Baton Rouge, LA sent me this email with Granddaddy Joe's obituary. I don't think that I have ever seen this, but was so happy to receive it and revive in my again my young memories of this aged grandfather who smelled of Prince Albert pipe tobacco, had a twinkling little smile and soft spoken voice as he gave me and my brother little tickles and jabs and played simple little jokes on his two great grandchildren. Again, I stand in awe of the character of this great man that I didn't really get to know. I will be anxious to meet him again in heaven and re-acquaint. I know that many also have truly wonderful and virtuous relatives to bring honor to their families, but I am most proud that I can claim that Joe B. Hankins was my great grandfather -- "Granddaddy Joe".

On Wednesday night, April 12th, the spirit of Joe B. Hankins was called to his heavenly home after several weeks of illness. Mr. Hankins leaves a family of eight children; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; three sisters and one brother to mourn his passing. He had lived in Lamar County throughout his eighty four years. In early life he married Miss Ada Collins and they settled near Vernon, Alabama. Here they reared their children in a Christian home, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The wise counseling and firm guidance of these Christian parents did much to help their children develop into outstanding citizens. Mr. Hankins took time to help, not only his family, but also his church, his community and his country. He was a good neighbor who was generous with his friends and who visited the sick and the needy. He accepted and practiced the teachings of Christ and time and again gave the cup of cold water in Christ’s name as recorded in the book of St. Matthew. As a devout Christian man of great faith he staunchly stood by his convictions of right, which he interpreted by an earnest study of the Bible. He was a devoted member of the Baptist Church and never swerved in his devotion to his church and its principles. He also spent time and effort for the improvement of the civic and social matters of his community. He encouraged the practice of good morals at all times. He was an excellent citizen, law-abiding and devoted to the proposition that laws are made for the protection of people and should be obeyed. He believed that “right makes might”. It would almost seem that Robert Louis Stevenson had Joe B. Hankins in mind when he wrote: “To be honest, to be kind; to earn a little and spend a little less; To make upon the whole a family happier for his presence; To help a few friends, but those without capitulation; here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.” Mr. Hankins was kind, he was discreet, he loved his fellowman, he had faith in God, he was a man if integrity and of true nobility and his passing leaves a vacancy in the hearts of his family and friends. But their loss is his eternal gain. He went as William Cullen Bryant describes in – Thanatopsis “ Sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams,” St. Paul wrote to the church of Corinth a great truth which seemed to apply to our friends demise - “ Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy
sting? O grave, where is they victory?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama

So much water has passed under the bridge since I last posted but the ripple effect is basically that we moved to Nashville in the fall when Andy became head basketball coach at Pope John Paul II High School. Our house in Huntsville is still for sale (go figure with the way the economy is). I had only been living in Nashville for a week when I had a seizure and ended up in the hospital....long story short, I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. I am still reeling with bouts of vertigo and trying to get myself back to normal. We are currently living with our daughter, son in law and the 2 grandbabies to help me while I recover.

That just about sums up our mid-life adventure change so far. We keep praying for our house to sell so we can finally settle in and start our new life for real. Huntsville has always been home to me except for a short time in Tuscaloosa for college and a couple of years in Birmingham when I first married. I was born and bred here and this has always been my roots. Andy and I were anxious and excited to try something different for the second half of our lives when we started considering the move. I just didn't realize how hard it was going to be to leave and then even harder to stay away. Our housing crisis and my illness have only complicated the experience. I know if we can sell the house and finally get all our furniture and belongings back together we will be able to start building a new life.

In the meantime, I came back this week for a little sabbatical. This is the first time I have been able to drive by myself. I loaded up Arthur (our cat) and off we drove down I-65 to Sweet Home Alabama! As I drove into my driveway, I saw my redbud trees blooming and the scattered daffodils were peeking out all over the front yard. Wow, what a difference 100 miles makes!

The house was ice-cold when I came in as we had the furnace turned as low as it could go with out freezing the pipes. Arthur was anxious to jump out of the carrier and quickly began running up the stairs to investigate his familiar territory. I must admit that I spent the first hour also roaming throughout my house remembering all my things and just enjoying the experience. We have had the cable tv turned off, so the house is quiet and peaceful. I've been here for 2 days now and this afternoon was the first time I even thought about having any noise in the house. I turned on the stereo and adjusted the surround sound and listened to some of my favorite cd's. It was breezy but wonderfully warm at about 66 degrees so I sat in the sun in my favorite wicker rocker on my screened in porch for several hours this afternoon. This has been the best therapy for me since I got sick.

I have enjoyed visiting with my son and daughter in law for dinner the first night I was here and then Drew came again this afternoon for a little visit. Last night I had dinner with my best friend and we just curled up on the couches at her house and watched American Idol and talked and talked. So much fun. I also went out to my old office and visited with all my old work friends.
Today two other dear friends came by to see me and we laughed and chatted just like I had never gone away. Andy drove down this evening after work and we went out to dinner with two of our best friends tonight. Great dinner, wonderful conversation and company and just like we had never been gone. Life is so short. Don't take the little things for granted. Smell the roses everyday and thank God for all your blessings. Tomorrow we will pack up and head north again for Nashville. My little vacation here for only 2 days has refreshed my spirit. It is suppose to snow tomorrow in Nashville. I will take back warm memories of today on the screened porch. I thank God that I could come home again for this little visit. I plan to come back and do this again until the house sells!