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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Grandaddy Came to Live With Us

I want to tell all about our trip to Arkansas this past weekend, but it may not make sense until I tell this story first.  So read on and stay tuned for more stories later.

This is the story of how Grandaddy came to live with us.

In the late 70s, not long after their only daughter died, Grandmother and Grandaddy bought a mobile home and moved back to their home town of Blytheville, Arkansas.  Grandmother was one of six children, so they still had lots of family and lots of good memories there.  

Why a mobile home?  Remember that my Grandaddy was a crane/dragline operator all his life.  They moved at least once or twice a year when one job ended and a new one began in another town.  My mother went to 16 schools in 12 years.  Grandmother told me, "I thought it was more important for Jean to be with her Daddy than to go to the same school for 12 years." Their mobile life hinged on a house you could bring with you.  They mostly had what we would call a camper until they bought this mobile home.

I know trailer parks get a bad rap, as well they should in many cases.  If you happen to have a clean park in your town, I hope you'll picture it as the place they chose to spend their retirement years.  (Can you imagine, btw, being retired for 30 years?) When I visited as a young girl, I remember it as a clean place.  It had a swimming pool and a playground and everyone kept their lots very nice.  It was made up of a lot of military folks who were stationed at Eaker air force base.  I met new people each visit who had "adopted" my grandparents as their own.  That always relieved the guilt a little.  The guilt from not visiting more often.  (Not that I had control at that time.)  There was one young couple who to this day still refers to Grandmother as "Grandmama."  

Anyway, the air force base closed, lots of people moved out.  The park changed owners many times.  They filled in the pool and the only thing left of the playground now is rusted out teeter-totters.  When my sister and I visited as adults, we both tried to talk them into moving home with us.  Either of us, it didn't matter who.  It seemed like they lived in a dump.  I know I would never use that word in front of them.  They were old and couldn't take care of the place like they wanted to and we were too far away to be of any help.  But the bottom line was they still had each other.  They would do what they could to maintain the place, but their main goal was to take care of each other.  And they made it clear as long as they had each other, they weren't moving.

I mentioned all the cousins I had there.  I didn't know any of them, mind you.  I knew names and the family tree was fuzzy at best.  How much can you get to know them in a week or so every other year?  

In December of 2004, one of these cousins called.  (They never called.)  She said, "Your grandmother is not well.  She had a heart attack last month and has had surgery.  She's been home most of that time, but is now in the hospital again.  Someone needs to come."

So, because I could, I went.  I was a stay at home mom, Brian worked from home and could easily work anywhere and the lady whom I call "mom" now was able to keep Samantha. In fact, Mom had already planned to keep Sam for a time and we were headed south when we got the call.  My sister, Honor, would've gone in a heartbeat, but both she and her husband worked and didn't have anyone to keep their son.  

On the drive there, I asked Brian, "What are we going to do?  They just can't take care of themselves any more.  They can't stay there."

He answered, simply, and without much thought at all, "They'll come live with us."  He's like that.  Always feeling like God has blessed us in such a way that it makes it easy for us to bless others.

I should mention here that my first thought was, "They will?"  I had no idea how all that would work out and there were so many questions and so few answers that I just stopped asking them in my mind.

Grandmother was in the hospital when we got there and was making some sense the first day.  You could tell she was right in her mind when she didn't want to talk about coming to live with us.  "I'm not going to have my kinfolk taking care of me," she said.  Grandaddy couldn't hardly form a thought, he was so worried about her.  He just said, "Let's wait and see."

I was with her in the hospital the next day, trying to encourage her to eat when she had another heart attack.  She had a living will, but apparently none of the staff knew that.  It's very hard to be the one to have to say over and over as each new nurse, aid and doctor came in the room, "She's got a living will, please don't hook up any machines to her.  She's a DNR.  Please don't do that, she doesn't want that."  

She called Grandaddy's name, so I got Brian on the phone and told him to bring him right away. She died before he got there.  She was 89.  He was 91.  They'd been married 62 years.

For the next day or two, we planned the funeral and talked to Grandaddy about coming home with us.  At the time it was, "just until we get things sorted out."  

He'd say, "Kris, what are we going to do about my back?  I can hardly walk."  Then he'd ask, "Kris, where am I going to sleep? Kris, what about the baby? (I was expecting Chase at the time.) You can't take care of two babies and me at the same time."  

The questions kept coming and kept coming.  I had as many or more running around in my head.  Finally, I said, "Grandaddy, I didn't say I had all the answers.  We'll take it one day at a time and figure it out together."

So, we loaded up all the things we could in our car and another friend's van who lived close to us and he's been with us ever since.  

He's never wanted to go back.  Until about two months ago, he said, "There's a few things I want from the trailer."

Which is why we went to Arkansas last weekend.  The next post is called, "The Land of A Thousand Nooks."



  1. I wish I had words to tell you all I think of you. Love you so.

  2. Okay, I am just in tears. I am so glad that you are sharing this story. I love the stories of our heritage. I want so much for my kids to know my "roots" and appreciate it the way that I do. I try to tell Maddie and Jake as much as I can remember about my mammaw and pappaw. I love that you have a living history under your roof. Squeeze every ounce out of it! There are so many things that I wish I would have asked.

    At one time, my pappaw was a dragline operator too! I am a daughter of 3 generations of coal miners. I know about the moving around thing too! Four schools in third grade alone! Whew!

    I can't wait to read your next installment!

    Love ya friend!


  3. What a blessing for you to have been able to be there for your granddaddy like this. Such a sweet story.