It’s almost impossible to overstate the value of a grandfather in a Southern girl’s life. Losing my Granddaddy nearly three years ago was tough. My friend, Shelley Keith, lost her Papaw this week. My heart goes out to her and her family.
Shelley gave the eulogy at his funeral. She agreed to let me share it here:
My earliest memory of J.C. was sitting at the kitchen table, before he and Mamaw were married. I remember having a conversation where I gave my 5-year-old blessing for them to wed. I have an idea this may have been unsolicited approval, but it was given, nonetheless. Thus started a long line of childhood memories involving my grandmothers cooking and Papaw looking at me like I’d lost my mind. I think this may have been about the time he bestowed me with the nickname that would stick forever, pissant. I’ve never taken the time to look it up, but I’m pretty sure it means revered and brilliant granddaughter.
When I got married, Papaw gave me away. He loved to tell people that he tried to sell me, but couldn’t get anything for me, so he gave me away. I think this story was his attempt at retribution for my making him wear a tux. I never heard the end of that tux, even though he was in jeans and boots before it came time for our dance. It was worth every snicker, every smart aleck comment, the entire cost of the wedding, and even every single retelling of that story to see he and Mamaw dance for what is the only time in my memory.
Papaw valued honesty, hard work, and humor…though not necessarily in that order. All of the grandchildren had the ability to put a smile on his face, usually by spouting something along the lines of “don’t look at me in that tone of voice, old man”, or simply walking in the house, taking one look at him and saying “shut up” before he could open his mouth. It was not uncommon for me to be greeted with “Oh hell, look what the cat dragged in…”. He always had a way with words.
From the moment Mamaw and J.C. married he took us as his own. Cory, Jeremy, Ashley (and Michael if he were here), would tell you that J.C. was Papaw. For them, he was the only one they ever knew. For me, it seemed like he jumped right in and my young life never skipped a beat. He was never our step-grandfather, he was the man upon which all of us based our opinions of what it means to be a man. Throughout our lives; through trials, missteps, and triumphs he was always there with encouraging words, a warm hug, and a shoulder when we needed it.
Mamaw will tell you that for the last 30+ years, everywhere they went someone was always hugging his neck or shaking his hand or standing in the middle of a store talking to him. He never met a stranger, and was never happier than when he was being good company to good company. I think the greatest testimony we can give to J.C. Allen is that for the last 3 days, Mamaw’s house has been filled with laughter and smiles and stories of love about that ornery old fart. So, to Papaw, who is undoubtedly sitting with Michael and looking down at us right now pleased as punch to see us all here in one place, smiling, holding each other up, and celebrating his warm, wonderful, humor-filled life…I’m glad you got to see me today.