My grandfather's funeral starts at 2:00 today. October 15, 1997 I spent many hours at your desk over the years, breaking the points on your mechanical pencils, drawing on your desk blotters and investgating the contents of all of your drawers as if to uncover everything there was to know about Ady.
I called him "Ady" when I was a toddler.
Because I was the first of his grandchildren, all of us called him that.
I was a violent toddler.
I walked around hitting everything - including my grandfather and his cat.
He taught me to be gentle, taught me to pet the cat and say,
"Ahhhh, the kitty," the arm of the chair...
"Ahhh, the chair,"He took my toddler hand and gently patted it against his forearm and taught me to say,
...and most importantly he taught me to stop hitting HIM.
Ah, the Daddy." In baby language it came out "Ady" and I called him that always.
His actual name was Jesse.
I am named for him and I am glad for that, honored by it.
My granny has asked me to speak at his funeral today.
More specifically, she asked me to read a birthday letter that I wrote to him in 1997.
I remember writing it but I didn't know he saved it.
I hope I can get through it.
I don't have a copy of this letter so I'm going to type it here both to have a copy for myself and with the hope that I can get used these ten year old words of mine so that they won't make me cry in front of my whole family and all the bridge players in Halifax County Virginia.
I regret that I missed calling you on your recent birthday. I hope that it was a happy one. Mom says that you've also been through a surgical procedure this past week. I trust that all went well and you are in good spirits.
Because it's your birthday, I wanted to send you a letter about the things I remember and cherish about growing up with you in my life.
One of my ealriest memories of you is from when you lived in New Jersey. You and Granny had the two orange chairs from your current living room in the nook of the New Jersey living room. They flanked a table that held your pipes, a lamp, ashtrays and maybe sometimes Katie the cat. Your chair was the one closest to the doorway and I remember climbing on you while you smoked your pipe. When you weren't in your chair, I played ith your pipes. I read a book called "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" in your chair.
I remember one Chirstmas, after all the gifts had been opened, you told me that there might be one more in the basement. You and Uncle Allen led me down and I saw the amazing doll house that the two of you built for the first time. Even then, I was so impressed that you had built not only the house, but all the furniture in it. The house was painted and roofed like your house in New Jersey. I loved that because I loved coming to that house. It was such a comfort to me to lay with Katie in the stripes of sun that lit up the carpet in the foyer.
I remember LOVING to take walks around the block with you. It was such a big honor to be invited to walk that far with you, listen to your conversation and look at all the big trees.
For as long as I can remember I have loved your world famous slide shows. They have always given me a sense of connection to myself and my family that has been very important to me. Thank you for being an historian that I have trusted and relied on most of my life.
I remember many family reunions at Granny M's house. I liked to run all around the porch and play with the millions of "M" cousins that seemed to go on forever. Granny M cooked so much delicious food and Uncle Mac makes the best Brunswick stew in the world. I remember that there was a hammock in the back yard and I loved to lie in it with cousins. I liked being at Granny M's house with the whole family. It gave me a sense of place and meaning in my life.
I remember the hours of fun I had playing the "I'll bite your finger off" game where I would cautiously put my finger in the corner of your mouth and laugh with delight when you would pretend to try to bite it off.
I remember you taking us to Otis Elevator and we got to wear hard hats and see your office.
When you moved to Ohio, you let me play with the creche at Christmas and you made me a Mankala game board. I remember that you and Granny took us to the Indian Mounds near Ohio State. Was it in Ohio that you took us to your office? I think maybe it was.
When you first moved home to Virginia, you drove me all around the "M" side of Route 58 and showed me many sites from your youth. I really enjoyed that. I'd like to do that with you again sometime.
I have always loved the wave in your hair. I don't know if I've ever told you that before, but it's been kind of amazing to me that throughout my life that wave has always been there.
I still have the handkerchiefs that you had embroidered in the South Pacific.
I guess I"m recalling all of these memories as a way of telling you that I have always loved you very much and I still do. I am very lucky to have you for a Grandfather (or are you and Ady? - ha ha) You have been an incredible mentor, teacher, historian, parent, guide and friend. You have taught me about my histroy and my family and helped to make this such an important part of how I view myself and understand my place in the world. You have helped me appreciate the simpler, guiet things life offers - like streams, woods, trees, wind and the night sky. I love you very much.
Big hugs and kisses to you Ady!
October 15, 1997
I spent many hours at your desk over the years, breaking the points on your mechanical pencils, drawing on your desk blotters and investgating the contents of all of your drawers as if to uncover everything there was to know about Ady.