Surrender 29: The Love of Grandfathers

I grew up with a grandfather that the whole family called Pop. For most of my life, he was the only grandpa I knew, and I cherish my memories of him. He taught me about gardening, allowing me to work alongside him, garden hoe in hand, learning about vegetables and flowers. 

 George Harnar, Pop, who served his country during WWII 

My other grandfather, my dad’s father, passed away when I was a small child. I have a few dear memories of him: sitting cradled in his lap, watching him talk, fascinated by his chin stubbled with gray whiskers, playing in his large garage while he tinkered on a car, the intriguing aroma of his pipe. His nickname, selected by my oldest cousin, was PooPaw. 

  Dennis & Grace Lauderdale, PooPaw & Granny

I recently acquired a photo of Poopaw, a gift from my cousin William. He and my grandmother are so young, captured on their wedding day. I treasure this picture, as I didn’t have one of my Lauderdale grandfather. 

I was in 3rd or 4th grade when I realized I had another grandfather, my mom’s dad. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident on an icy road long before I was born. My mother was just a little girl. I learned his name was William, and his family called him Billy. My grandmother remarried later, to the man I knew as Pop. 

  Billy Gregory, playing the violin with his brother Lloyd on the mandolin. 

Although I knew neither of my biological grandfathers well growing up, in the last few years I’ve thought about them often. I am intuitive. My abilities frightened me as a child, and as a result, I grew up with a great deal of fear. While still a little girl, I used to wake up in the dark, which was a terrifying experience for me. I’d sometimes feel someone sitting on the edge of my bed, rubbing my back in a loving and gentle way. Comforted, I’d turn my head, expecting to see my mother. There was never anyone there, that I could see anyway. But that presence brought me a measure of peace. 

Only after I faced down my fears a few years ago, and fully accepted and embraced my intuitive self, did I come to understand who that presence was. My grandfather Billy, whom I never met while he lived, has long been my protector, fulfilling in Spirit what he could not do in life. He has often watched over me, a quiet strength in times of need. I now call him Papaw Bill. 

I fully understand that for most people, my perceptions of Life and Spirit are beyond what they’ve personally experienced. That’s okay. It is only because I so completely accept myself and no longer hide who I am, that I can share my own experiences now. There is a quote that I love, by Sandri Alexander, that says, “Behind your greatest fear, lies your greatest gift.” I am finally realizing what that means for me. My intuitive abilities, because of my lack of understanding, created my greatest fear. As that fear crumbled away, my intuition was revealed for what it was…my greatest gift. My essence. The truest part of who I am. As I journey as a whole person, I am discovering what I am to offer to the world. 

Which brings me back to my grandfathers. I had powerful ahas about PooPaw and Papaw. My gifts of intuition come to me from both of them, through the Lauderdale and Gregory lines. Both died young, PooPaw at age 52 and Papaw at age 33. My mother was five years old when her father died and I was five years old when PooPaw died. 

I know that as a child, I would have greatly benefitted from their stories of their own experiences, as intuitives. I believe that’s one of the reasons Papaw Bill has visited me so often. What I realized just this week, is that PooPaw has been a presence in my life as well. My two grandfathers, ever near, loving me from beyond the veil, from the realm of Spirit. And Pop, charged with the task of being my substitute grandpa, loving me and caring for me as well. He too “pops” by occasionally for a Spirit visit. I recognize his presence by the whiff of tobacco that I get. 

I have stood daily in my studio, before the picture of PooPaw and Granny Grace, sending them love and gratitude. And suddenly this week, I wanted Papaw Bill’s photo too. My mom has that great pic of him playing his violin and today, I stood at Walgreens, waiting for the prints I ordered from her photo to be processed. As the time passed, and I could hear the technician struggling with the machine, I surrendered to what was. If I needed to, I’d come back another time. I wanted that picture today, however tomorrow would be fine too. 

More help arrived. Whispered consultations ensued. Perhaps a swift kick to the contrary machine was delivered. I stepped forward to say it was okay…I’d return in the morning. At that moment, the tech approached with a grin, package in hand. “Here you go,” he said, “no charge. Sorry for your long wait.” He refused my offer to pay. 

In the car I opened the package. Five copies of the photo were inside! They gave me extras. I had what I wanted, and I could share with my sisters. 

I smiled. “Thank you Papaw. And PooPaw. And Pop. My grandfathers…thank you for everything.” 


Journey 122: The Violin

Papaw Bill's Violin

Mom and I made the trip home this afternoon, back through Kansas to Joplin. With us on this return trip were boxes of treasures: mementos of my aunt’s life, keepsakes that belonged to my grandmother, and great-grandmothers, all graciously given to my mom by my cousins. In a place of honor, alone on the middle seat in the van, swaddled in a protective blanket, rested a worn black music case. Nestled within that case was a violin.

I watched last night as my cousin gently placed that violin into my mother’s waiting arms. I watched, with teary eyes, as the emotions played across Mom’s face….grief, joy, tenderness, wonder. This is not just any violin. This gorgeous instrument, estimated to be approximately 100 years old, belonged to my mother’s dad, Bill Gregory. Made in Czechoslovakia, it is a ¾ size copy of a Jacobus Stainer violin. My mom doesn’t know how my grandfather acquired the violin or what he paid for it.

What she does know is, it has been at least 72 years since she heard her father play his violin. Tragically, Bill Gregory died in a truck accident in February of 1945, when my mother was just five years old. Her mother remarried later, and my mom and her sister and brother were raised by a fine man, who became the only grandfather I ever knew. But she never forgot her daddy, of course. The violin passed to her sister, Annie, who cared for it over the years, keeping it repaired and protected. With the recent passing of Annie, who has been reunited with her father, my cousins very generously asked my mother if she would like to have this beautiful treasure.

Mom and Annie

My mom, with her sister Annie

Such a tender offer has touched my mom, and indeed, my sisters and me, so deeply. My mother lost her dad at such a young age. She has cherished memories of him, but nothing tangible, nothing that belonged to him. To hold that violin, to care for it now, stirs such powerful emotion, tucked away in her heart long ago. The strings are silent, the bow still, but when she closes her eyes, she can hear her father playing. One of her great joys would be to hear a grandchild or great-grandchild cradle the violin and play, the spirit of her father alive within the music, within the violin.

I listened on our journey home today, as Mom told me stories of my grandfather…how he collected herbs in the wild, as a child, and sold them…how he was a carpenter and helped to build Camp Crowder, his induction into the Army delayed until it was completed…how he took his family to visit his sister Jane before joining the military…how he drove off into a blizzard, leaving his wife and young children with his sister, concerned about his animals at home…how he never made it home that night. I listened, aware that my grandfather’s violin was riding quietly behind me. Aware of my grandfather’s quiet presence as well.

“Do you think my father knows I have his violin?” my mother mused aloud, as we neared her home. I glanced in the rearview mirror, into the backseat. “Yes,” I answered….”I’m sure he does.”

Papaw Bill's Violin Bill and Lloyd

Bill Gregory, playing the violin, with his brother Lloyd, on the mandolin