I was riding in my car last week and from somewhere in time, I seemed to recall a conversation that I had with my late grandfather, Clarence. I was 23 years old and had six children. At the time we were making those babies, it didn't dawn on me that they grow up and that one day I'd be doing this as a single parent. Anyway, for the first time ever, he was upset with me. I'd call to say that I'd given birth to another baby boy. I remember him fussing because I'd had ANOTHER baby. He said to me,"If you keep this up, you're going to be living on welfare and you're life is going to go nowhere!" I was so hurt. I told him that he was wrong and that I planned to finish school and become a Nurse. He scoffed at me and said, "Yeah right! You can't go to school with all those kids! How will you be able to work?" So I explained that I worked full time and that eventually, I was going to make a way. Of course, he didn't believe me and my heart just ached.
My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life. I have only good memories of him and growing up, I thought that he was the only one to see any goodness in me. I remember him smoking his pipe and laughing. I remember him telling me how special I was and I was such a good girl. He always had a compliment and fresh $20 in hand as soon as I came around. I loved that man so much. The best thing about him was his loyalty to others and that work ethic. Oh...he was such a hard worker. He cleaned pig pens and slopped hogs from the time he was 8 years old because he knew he had to contribute. After he grew up, he got up at 4 in the morning to get his day started. He used to say that a man had no business sleeping past sunrise. That was laziness! At 5 am, he made his way out the door because there was a neighbor who lived close by. My Grandpa Shorty (as we called him) would go to his house, make his breakfast and lunch, then proceed to work. See this neighbor had unfortunately had his legs blown off in some distant war and Shorty was going to make sure that he was taken care of. Unfailingly, every day. (This must be where I get my sense of duty from.)
When I was a little older, we moved away to Charlotte but I could always pick up the phone and he was there. Always, but only after 7pm because he worked hard all day up until a week before he died at the age of 76. I used to say that I'd never marry until I found someone just like him. He set the standard of what I wanted in a husband. Through the years, I went to see him a few times after I was on my own. Each time I'd silently pray that we'd grow old together although I knew that was impossible. One time, he expressed to me that he was getting old; he wouldn't always be here. I told him he was crazy. He was going to be around to watch me grow old and then we'd die together. How silly was that?
So...when this man who meant more to me than any man in the world doubted me, the pain was like a punch in my gut. I was so angry with him but I didn't let him know that. I have way more respect than to argue with my elders. Before I hung up that phone, my Grandpa said, "The day you graduate from Nursing School, I'll be there. I haven't left Greenville in over 56 years but I'll be there to see you walk across that stage." So I said,"Deal?" and he said,"Deal!" At the time, I was young and time had no meaning to me other than what was on the face of a clock. I took my sweet time and had more babies and went to school and did my Medical Assisting thing and...you get the picture. Time passed me by and I hadn't kept my promise. Then, sadly, in 2006 he passed away the first day of July. Coupled with another major event, that was the worst year of my life. Depression took me to some dizzying lows.
A couple of years later, it hit me that it was time for me to take that leap. So...now I'm here in this moment of my life, keeping my promise. It dawned on me a few days ago that it was almost time for me to apply for graduation. I was giddy inside because I begin my senior semester in August. I won't get to graduate until May (our college only holds one ceremony a year) but then I felt a little sad because I'd waited so long. The sadness didn't last long because I have the feeling that somewhere in heaven, there's a man walking around with a corn cob pipe and cherry tobacco smiling because I kept my promise.