1986! I was ready to go to college for my sophomore year. But I had a serious dilemma. It all really started a year earlier though and I didn’t even know it at the time. It’s all in the past now. I’ve come to grips with it now. But it took a little while. And it broke my heart into tiny little pieces. I think it’s time to just start at the beginning and share the whole experience.
It begins with the relationship that I had with my paternal grandparents. While I never saw them do it I’m quite sure that they hung the moon in the sky every night and the sun in the sky every morning. My Mamaw and Papaw were as close to best friends that a girl could ever hope to have. I grew up spending a LOT of free time at their house. I was the first grandchild. In the end there were only four of us. Two girls and two boys. So we each got as much time as we wanted with them. We did everything together! They were the emergency contacts at my high school. I remember Papaw coming to pick me up when I was sick. We had a great time – just the two of us – even though I was sick. I remember the tickle fights between him, me and my cousin Derick. He liked to take us to the lake and out in the boat. He’d take us out to the edge of the lake and anchor the boat at an angle so Derick and I could get in the water even though we weren’t supposed to. I have a clear picture of him getting the boat ready in the driveway before we would take off to the lake. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from their house on the weekends. Mamaw and I loved to watch TV together. I remember when the Loreal commercial tag line “Because I’m worth it” came out we would laugh and say that line along with them like we were worth a million bucks. Mamaw was the best cook in the world. We had all of our family meals at their house. My mom and my aunts would bring covered dishes but Mamaw cooked most of the meals. She canned everything that could be canned. Papaw used to love picking on her. She’d get so mad at him for it. But I could have stayed there forever – if only time could have stood still.
When it came time for me to go to college in 1985 I chose to go to a college in Nashville. I chose our denomination’s college, Free Will Baptist Bible College. The closer it came to time for me to leave in August, Papaw told me he didn’t want me to go away. I remember feeling like it was a sentimental emotional. Each time I saw him he would give me one of those big Papaw hugs and tell me again that he wanted me to stay closer to home. I tried to get him to understand that the Bible college was where I felt like I needed to be. He told me there were colleges closer to home that I could go to. I remember my family had Mamaw and Papaw up to the house for a “goodbye” dinner at some point right before I left for Nashville. One of my parents took a picture of me between the two of them. I’ve searched for years for that picture but I haven’t been able to find it yet. I’ll explain in a little bit why I want to find it so bad.
But the day came and I left. I spent my first semester at college. I had a great time. I was on my own. I studied. I made friends. I was on the drama team. I dated. It was just the perfect semester. When I came home for the holidays, I had a shocking surprise and not in a good way. During the time that I left for college and had that perfect semester my Papaw was gravely ill. When I came home I found him with an amputated leg and part of his lung gone. What in the world? What happened? The last time I saw him was the night that picture was taken and then I come home and see this with NO WORD as a warning or a hint as to what was going on. Everyone BUT ME knew he was sick. Everyone BUT ME knew he was having surgery right after I left for Nashville. Everyone BUT ME knew that he had a leg amputated. Everyone BUT ME!!!! I’ve had it explained to me a million times. And this was 28 years ago so I have forgiven my family members. But I will never forget it. How do you forget something like that? I want to cry just thinking about it now all these years later.
So that kind of brings me to the point in 1986. My Papaw was on death’s door. I knew that he was nearing the end of his life. I didn’t dare go so far away again a second time. So I applied to a college closer to home and had been accepted. I was one week away from having to go to college. My heart was telling me to go back to Nashville. But my head was saying NO WAY was I leaving him so near death in the hospital. Emotionally I was a wreck. I made some bad decisions during that period of time. I could see the timeline laid out ahead of me. Where would I be at college the following weekend? I had no idea. I decided that I would lay a fleece out before the Lord like Gideon did. On Sunday August 16, 1986 I told the Lord if I was meant to go to Cedarville (the college close to home) to help Papaw make a recovery in the week ahead. But if I was to go back to Nashville to college to let him live through his birthday, August 18, and die the next day. I put all of my faith in the Lord to reveal his will to me through that fleece. The Lord answered me. Papaw lived through his birthday and died at 2:00 a.m. on August 19, 1986. That was my answered prayer. He answered me in about as direct a way as he could. I was able to get back to Nashville in time to start my sophomore year at college.
My heart was broken and it still is when I sit down and think this all the way through. But I try to remember all the good times. It seems to mend the broken pieces. Twenty Seven years ago today the Lord took the best Papaw a girl could ever ask for. I hope he’s been enjoying him up there. One day I’m gonna join him again and we can continue all of our fun times. And he’s be walking on two legs again and have two complete lungs to laugh with.
I discovered why the Lord was sending me back to Nashville. I had begun a relationship with a guy the second half of my freshman year. While feelings were building for this guy in Nashville, my concern and emotions for my Papaw overshadowed the potential boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. But in some way, where I would go to college my sophomore year would determine the future of this relationship and I am convinced this is part of what God was working out during this experience with my Papaw. As it turned out, I married this guy – now 26 years later, we still reminisce about grandparents.