How do you remember this day? If you’re like most of the world you remember it as the day the towers fell. That’s to be expected. It’s how most of the world remembers 9/11. But, if you live in the small community of Latimer, Mississippi, you may remember it the way I do.
I remember it as Christmas mornings, flannel shirts, & getting stitches removed sitting on the dog feed. I also remember it as a 55 year marriage, 8 children, 11 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. See, today is Paw Paw’s birthday. Paw Paw, Erie to most of you, was born September 11, 1928, long before the terrorist attacks of 2001 made the day famous. Granny and Paw Paw had 8 kids: Ann, Eileen, Shari, Glennis, (Little) Erie, Jr, Tony, Ralph & Kenny. Naming grandkids and great-grandkids will have to wait.
Granny and Paw Paw ran the store in Latimer. Granny still does with Kenny’s help. The community recently honored them for everything they’ve done for Latimer. People will remember him that way, and that’s good. But it’s not the whole picture.
I remember Christmas mornings waking up to presents under the tree and a fire in the fireplace. How could I forget hunting season? Getting up early to watch everyone get ready. Most people went out hunting in trucks, not Paw Paw. He went out in his Cadillac. May as well be comfy, right? And how could I forget the Girl Scout banquets he attended? Sitting patiently through all the awards and eating food that was probably awful.
When I was 7 or 8 I got stitches in my leg. I clearly remember the doctor putting them in. I only wanted Aunt Thelma to take them out. When the day came, Aunt Glennis drove me to the doctor. I told her before we left I wouldn’t let the doc take them out. And I didn’t. we drove back to the store, stitches still in my leg. Paw Paw sat me down on the dog food, put his belt in his lap, and removed my stitches. That’s probably the closest he ever came to disciplining me.
After he officially retired, Paw Paw still kept up residence in the back of the store. Next to the meat market where he taught me to use the slicer is his chair. There’s also a coffeepot and lots of other chairs. Most people who come through stop, have a cup of coffee, and shoot the bull. These are probably some of my fondest memories.
Paw Paw didn’t live to meet Paige. He passed away just after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. He knew I was having a girl. He told me so 2 weeks before my big ultrasound. There are some ways that Paige is like him: her love of garlic, her ability to sleep anywhere (do you know of another 2 year old who tells you it’s time for their nap?) and her stubbornness. Some days, I wonder if she’s his reincarnation. If she is, someone help us!
His funeral wasn’t ordinary, just like him. The church is meant to seat about 100. That day it held over 300 by some guesses. There was no air conditioner because there was no power. While the family was there, the volunteer fire department had a rotating guard on our homes watching for looters. And the people who attended. It was definitely a sight to see. Katrina had just destroyed most of their homes. They were living with friends, family, in shelters, or camping in their yards. People were watching for looters & trying to find their friends and family who had left. Some were dressed up as best they could. Others came by to pay their respects in the cut-offs and t-shirts they were wearing to clean out their homes. I think Paw Paw would have liked it. He was definitely known for his stubbornness. Before we went I told Ronnie the power would probably come back on just after the funeral so Paw Paw could be stubborn. I was right. Within 30 minutes of the funeral being over, the power was restored.
Happy birthday, Paw Paw.