Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Family Loyalty Runs Deep

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Loyal is not just a word to me.  It also represents the unswerving allegiance of my grandfather – Addison Loyal Williams – aka Pop Pop.

His mother, my great-grandmother Queenie, could not have known on the day of his birth that her small son would grow into a man who wore that middle name well and proud until the day he died.

My grandfather carried a faithful allegiance to God, his family and friends until the moment of his passing on a Sunday morning last March while bowed down on his knees reading the bible and praying.

Today would have been his 86th birthday, so I’ve been thinking about him a lot.

Growing up, I spent much time at my grandparents’ house.  Being an early riser – as I still am today – I would be up at the crack of dawn.  My grandfather, a devout Christian, woke early every single morning to pray and meditate. 

On those mornings, I would wrap myself into his arms and he would walk the dark halls of their big old house singing and praising the gospels.  I lay there safe and drowsy, with my head pressed to his chest, while sucking my thumb. He would hold me for what seemed like hours in my child-like memories until my grandmother would come down and the house would begin to wake up.

Chillin' with Pops
Being the father of eight children, grandfather to 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, my Pop Pop had a lot of patience.

After church on Sundays, I remember all of us grandchildren climbing all over him while he tried to nap watching football.  When he’d get home from his job as a contractor, I would wipe the saw dust out of his thinning hair and make little Mohawks and spikes.  He would never grumble or complain; just pretty much ignored all of us little monkeys.

My Pop Pop almost always had a smile on his face and loved to tell corny jokes that we almost never got.

One of my most favorite things about Pop Pop was his big booming singing voice.  Out of nowhere, he would break into song.  He had one of the best voices I have ever heard –  just like Bing Crosby – that would give me chills.  I have a few answering machine tapes of both my Pop Pop and Grandmom calling me on my birthday and serenading me with my birthday song.

Growing up, my life wasn’t always normal.  So I always appreciated the stability of a nuclear family that my grandparents could offer me. 

My grandfather was certainly the Patriarch of my family.  When things in life were difficult for me to understand, he was never afraid to sit down next to me and hold my hand while he tried to explain the unexplainable.  He would say, “Tracy, sometimes people act a certain way and we aren’t sure why, but just know that you are loved.”

It was comforting to know that my Pop Pop had my back and I did know how much both of my grandparents loved me.
But, I had always been closest to the love of his life, my grandmother, Lillian Williams. So, when she passed away about two months before my son was born, my grandfather did his best to step into her shoes and be there for me in those final weeks of my pregnancy.

We would talk on the phone for long periods of time and we had never done that before.  My Grandmom was always the buffer.  She would put Pop Pop on the phone to talk to me, but we never actually talked about things of a personal nature.

I was caught off guard the day that my grandfather explained that they wouldn’t let me leave the hospital after having the baby until I had done a poopy.  At first, I didn’t think I had heard him correctly and then I started to laugh.  I think I would have fallen on the floor roaring with laughter, if I hadn’t been afraid of not being able to get up since I was as big as a house by then.

We also spent time talking about when he was in the Army during World War II.  He returned from being overseas on an aircraft carrier that took him under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco harbor.  He said it was a beautiful sight that he would always remember.

A lot of our conversations were about God and religion.  For 57 years, my grandfather served as a lay leader and elder at our family’s church Glad Tidings.  His relationship to God, along with my relationship and my family’s, were very important to him.  We spent a lot of time discussing this topic in great detail.

The last time I was able to visit with my grandfather was in New Jersey during Christmas and New Year’s two years ago.

Our flight home was in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, so we got up early to wish him a Happy New Year and say good-bye.  At the time, I didn't know it would be our final farewell.
Tracy & Addison
It had been an enjoyable – but short– visit; however, it turned out to be extremely meaningful.  But before I left, my grandfather gave me one of his old Bibles.  In the front, he had filled in most of the family history up to the late '70s until he got a new Bible.  There is an old index card being used as a book mark noting The Gospel of John. I love looking at his neat handwriting and living vicariously through his younger years as he watched his family grow.

Today, his bible is one of my most cherished items and my son – Shane Loyal Mausser – who is my most cherished, has big shoes to fill as his middle name is in honor of my grandfather.  I don’t doubt for a second that he will follow successfully in those footsteps.

There isn’t a day that goes by in which I don’t think of my grandfather and miss him terribly.  When I close my eyes, I can almost hear his voice in my ears and it seems impossible to me that he is gone from this world.  But I know that – someday in my future – we will meet again and the crinkle of his eyes and unabashed smile will be mine once again.

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