Big Daddy, my mother’s father was undoubtedly the kindest man I’ve ever known. He was a gentle soul with a sparkle in his eyes. He didn’t mind telling anyone what he thought, but he never raised his voice or his hand to anyone.
Big Daddy’s wife, the mother of his children, died and left him alone to raise six children. My mother was two and a half and her younger sister was eighteen months old. I think the oldest may have been twelve. His sister suggested that he turn them over to an orphanage and he replied that it would only happen over his dead body.
He loved his God and his family. He had promised his wife on her death bed that he would never bring a step mother in their home to raise their children. He was a man of his word and did not remarry until his children had grown up. While his mother was alive she helped him with the rearing of his children.
He did remarry after his children grew up and moved away and was very happy. He outlived this wife as well. When he passed he was buried between both wives as he had loved each of them.
Big Daddy loved baseball. He played on a community league. He passed his love of the game to his kids. His son played baseball as well, and all five girls played softball in school. He was a spectator long after his own kids had stopped playing. He regularly watched the pros on television.
Another of his passions was wrestling. He drove to the city to watch matches, and watched them every weekend on television. The only time I ever saw him get angry was when my mother would tease him by saying that she didn’t know why he watched it because it was fake. Now, he was not a man who cursed, but he would say, “Shucks, don’t you be saying that. It is no such thing as it being fake!” He’d wring his hands and pull on his fingers while you watched the fire burn in his face. She’d tell him that they weren’t really hitting each other. He’d shake his head no and turn away so he didn’t have to look at her. Then he’d clear his throat and tell her he didn’t want to hear it because he knew dang well it was real.
He used to tell us tales of how all the senior ladies were chasing him but he was too fast for any of them to catch him. He’d tell us how he’d have four or five of them ask him to dinner each week and he wouldn’t go. His explanation was that they offered to cook him hot dogs and he could cook those himself so he wasn’t going to waste his time on them.
We spent every Christmas at Big Daddy’s house. All of my mother’s sisters and their families would gather there as well. It was a huge event, tons of food, noise, and love. The entire family also got together for Big Daddy’s birthday each year as well. I don’t think he ever stopped smiling during either of these occasions. He always had time for hugs and simple conversation. He’d get the cutest little devilish grin on his face when he teased us.
During his later years, he came to dinner at our house most Sunday evenings. His shirt pocket was always stuffed with sweet n’ low and sugar packets. He’d offer them to my mother telling her that the restaurant where he eats lunch leaves them on the table for you to take all you want. She tried once to gently tell him that they were there to put in your drinks while you were dining there. He wouldn’t hear of that and continued to bring them each week. She’d tell him she didn’t need them, and sometimes he’d leave them on the counter and sometimes he’d take them home. He had quite a collection of them at his own house.
Once when I was on a date with Dirt Man we came behind a pokey and jerky car on the highway. He made a remark about old people needing to stay off the road, and as he pulled over to pass I realized it was Big Daddy.
One time in his later years, his car broke down on a major highway. He got out of the car and started working on it right there in the middle of the road. Everyone in the county knew and loved my grandfather. Someone stopped and tried to help him. He told him he could handle it. The man pleaded to let him push it to the side of the road so that he wouldn’t get creamed by a tractor trailer. Big Daddy calmly replied, “There’s a whole ‘nother lane right there they can use”, and he refused to budge. The gentleman called my aunt who had to leave work and convince him to let someone move the car to the shoulder to work on it.
Big Daddy instilled the importance of family and love to his people. The extended family gatherings at Christmas ended with his death. However, the family continued to get together at other times. Other family member have passed on as well. Time has become precious and distance a factor. The family remains close knit and tries to arrange a reunion every few years.