In Loving Memory of Papaw

I found out this morning that my grandfather died a little over a month ago. I may write a separate post explaining why I wasn’t informed, but for now I would just like to pay tribute to my grandfather who I loved and thought of often despite what certain other “family” members may think.

My grandfather was a kind and gentle man, dedicated to his family and, yes, to his god. I watched him preach on numerous occasions, and his passion was evident to me even as a young child. I sat in the very front row of the tiny rural church where he was Pastor, watching in awe and singing my heart out when the time came to do so.

When visiting Papaw at his home in Mississippi, he was always the first one up in the morning. I’m sure he rose before the sun to pray while the grandchildren were still sleeping and the house was quiet. When I finally awoke, I would find him sitting in his favorite chair, Bible open on his lap. He would look up and smile, welcoming me with a cheerful (Mississippi-accented) greeting: “Mornin’, Glory!”

I went to stay with Mamaw and Papaw when I was thirteen. I’d been having trouble at home and in school, and my grandparents welcomed me into their home as a sort of safe haven. It wasn’t long before I had inadvertently started running with the wrong crowd and Papaw was none too pleased.

One afternoon, I was standing outside his house talking with a couple of boys, one of whom I knew from school. The other didn’t go to school anymore. My grandfather came out, grabbed me by the arm and marched me inside the house.

“You’re hurting me”, I protested.

“Not as much as those two will”, he calmly replied.

The next time I tried to speak to the boys, neither of them wanted anything to do with me. After sending me to my room that day, Papaw had gone back outside and caught up to the boys, who had wasted no time in getting out of there. He warned them both that if they ever came near his granddaughter again, he would kill them, and that no one in that town would believe the Baptist preacher had done such a thing.

It worked!

While I would never condone such threats, I later realized that Papaw was only trying to protect me. Oh, I was livid at the time, but what I didn’t know, and Papaw did, was that the two boys were heavily involved in drugs, including dealing, and had frequent run-ins with the law. He just didn’t want to see me go down the same path. That certainly doesn’t excuse what he did, but it explains it in a way that any parent or grandparent might understand.

Papaw was one of the few men in my life who I didn’t fear (I even feared my own father). I always felt safe when Papaw was around. He wasn’t going to hurt me, or let anyone else do so. He risked his own safety as well as his reputation when he confronted those boys, but none of that was as important to him as protecting me at the time.

Over the years, circumstances beyond my control lead to a distancing between my grandparents and me. Mamaw died more than twenty years ago, and there had been no contact for several years prior to her death.

I often greet my son in the mornings with, “Mornin’ Glory!” I think of Papaw every time I say it. This morning, as I came to Bonnie for my morning hug, I said it to her. I then explained where it had come from, and wondered aloud if my grandfather was still alive. She asked his name and looked it up on the internet where we discovered his obituary. Papaw died a little over a month ago, June 29, 2009.

He used to sit on his front porch and sing. I always enjoyed sitting with him, singing along if I knew the words, and listening if I didn’t. One of my favorite songs to sing with my grandfather was Church in the Wildwood. To this day, despite my views on religion, I sometimes find myself humming or singing it softly to myself. It still brings back warm and happy memories of the few short visits I had with Papaw.

So, I dedicate the following song to the loving memory of my grandfather, Reverend Charles Donald Fitzgibbon (March 10, 1923 – June 29, 2009)

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7 responses to “In Loving Memory of Papaw

  • saintpaulgrrl

    I’m sorry that you found out about your grandfather’s death in such a distant way, but I’m glad I was there to wrap you in a hug. Your Papaw will always live on in your heart and your memories, Lottie. ((hugs))

  • B.T. Murtagh

    When it comes to my friends and family whose lives are deeply informed by religious faith, it has often struck me as fortunate and wonderful that the higher qualities of their belief are not limited by the falseness of its base. They give credit for it to their God, but it’s truly due to the inherent goodness of the believers themselves, and belief isn’t necessary to see it.

    Your Papaw sounds like a truly worthwhile man, and I’m glad you have such good, loving memories of him. My condolences for your loss, Lottie.

  • Lottie

    Bonnie: If I’d been given a choice, I would have chosen to hear it from you anyway. Thank you for being there, for listening as I try to sort it all out in my mind, and for the much needed hugs. I love you!

    Brian: I completely agree — “it’s truly due to the inherent goodness of the believers themselves”. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. It means a lot.

  • Dottie

    Hello Lottie and I am sorry you only learned of Papaw’s death after the fact. You may be interested to know that your posting date of August 4th was the birthday of your Papaw’s mother who would be your great grandmother who died in 1977 and coincidentally on the same day in June as he did in 2009. Your Papaw was my Daddy so I am trying to figure out which one of my nieces you are.

  • Lottie

    Hello, Aunt Dot! 🙂

    First I’d like to offer my sincere condolences. I have only fond memories of your father, my Papaw, and deeply regret not having been more closely in touch all these years.

    Thank you for the information about my great-grandmother. That would be Grandma Pat, wouldn’t it? There are certainly some interesting coincidences here. If I remember correctly, your oldest son’s birthday is also August 4th (I do know his name, but I’ll leave publishing it to your discretion).

    I try to be discrete here on my blog for reasons I’d be happy to email you, if I may (don’t worry, your email address is only visible to me) but I’m sure the following clues will leave no doubt in your mind: I’ll turn 43 next month and I was raised in a Texas border town. My little sister was Julie Lyn.

    It’s very nice to hear from you, Aunt Dot! Thank you so much for commenting here.

    ~Lottie

  • Ally

    hi lottie,
    i’m ally, Papaw and Lucy’s great-granddaughter. They adopted me when i was a baby and raised me my entire childhood. I was baffled when i searched for my papaw and your blog was the first to come up, fate i guess…
    if you would email me back, that’d be great,
    i’d love to get to know you
    thanks!

  • Lottie

    Hi Ally! Thank you so much for commenting here. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I don’t check my blog nearly as often as I used to and your comment has been stuck in the “holding cell”. :-p

    I’ll email you as soon as I finish posting this. Take care…

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