That is how I would describe one of my first loves.
My Granddaddy, Eddie Dorsey, left this earth, Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 102 years young.
102 years means a lot of stories. And, there are a lot of things I remember about him. My sister and I had the privilege of growing up down the street from both sets of my grandparents, who lived across the street from one another. My parents were childhood (or preteen) sweethearts, my uncles and aunts grew up spending time together, neighborhood adventures, school antics (oh the stories they tell).
But about my Granddaddy…
I remember walking into Granny and Granddaddy’s house with my dad. Stopping to give Granny a kiss as she sat on their front porch, often shelling peas, or “picking” greens, then going to Granddaddy in his recliner, giving him a kiss, as he said “Hi Kimmy!”. I would follow my dad as we made our rounds to visit Granddaddy’s stashes…first to the pantry to get a banana, then to the glass cookie jar on top of the refrigerator, to grab a couple of ginger snaps, and finally to Granddaddy’s top dresser drawer to grab a piece (or two) of Brach’s candy – not peppermint (‘that boring candy that old people gave you to keep you quiet in church’). I wanted the good stuff – caramels or the butterscotch.
I remember crawling into Granddaddy’s lap as he sat in his recliner, playing with his ruby ring, and sitting with him as he read the newspaper, talked to my dad, or watched a baseball game -the Chicago White Sox, of course.
I remember adamantly begging for a ruby ring “just like Granddaddy’s”.
I remember getting that ring.
I remember being fascinated whenever we would ask him for money for the ice cream truck or sno-cone man. He would always pull out the exact amount of money/coins needed. We thought that was “magic”.
I remember getting to go to church with him on the Sundays that we didn’t go to ours with Bigmama, my maternal grandmother. We were excited because we didn’t have to get up so early, and they served breakfast at his church.
I remember running out of the house whenever he would call to tell us that Granny was cooking. We knew that meant she was making our favorite meal – greens, cornbread and neckbones.
I remember his quiet ways. Never yelling. Rarely angry. At over 6 feet tall, some have called him a “gentle giant”.
I remember him, Papa, my maternal grandfather, and my cousin Sara, teaching us how to play Spades (and the mandatory “trash-talking” that goes along with it).
I remember never quite understanding Bid Whiz.
I remember being “sponsored” with a $20 bill when I went to the riverboat with him (yes, as an adult)- with him laughing, quoting my Granny, “It ain’t nuthin but a little sport.”
I remember him looking wistfully away after quoting her, smiling as he said, “I miss that ol’ gal”, after she died in 1998.
I remember laughing hysterically a few years later when I discovered he had “a lady friend”, and how she was a “younger woman”… in her 70s, compared to his 90s.
I remember how my sister and I called him our walking history book, and personal “Forrest Gump”. Born in Mississippi in 1912, he was born the year the Titanic sank, and the year before Harriett Tubman died. He was living during World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He survived the Great Depression, and participated in the Great Migration. He talked about racial tensions in Mississippi, not having the right the vote, and his disbelief and excitement when President Barack Obama was elected (“I didn’t think would live to see a black man as president. I’m glad. But, I wouldn’t want his job.”). As we rode around the city of Chicago, he would give us personal history lessons, how he helped build along Lake Shore Drive, the story of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the conditions of the Stockyards…
I remember his bowed leg and slight limp, the remnant of having a broken leg that was not repaired as a young black boy in the south. You would ask him how he’s doing and he would respond “Fair to middlin” or “Still kickin’, but not high.”
I remember how until the last year or so, before dementia began to erase the memory of the grandfather I knew and loved, he was always ready with a conversation – a story, a word of wisdom, a history lesson, or a nugget of advice (but only when asked). Never too many words – not too few – always, just enough.
I remember his encouragement and pride at the major events in my life – graduations, both local and out of state. How he took the train with my dad and aunt to my graduation in Texas -a 24 hour journey if I remember correctly – because after flying one time in his late 80s he told me “if it wasn’t flying before I was born, I don’t need to be on it.” How he traveled to my wedding in Tennessee when he was 94, and came again at 98, a week after my first child was born. He was there. Never making a scene, no loud shouting, no noise – just his presence. The gentle giant. He was there.
He was there when my mom died.
And many years later when her father, his long time friend passed. He was there.
And now…he’s not.
And, my heart is broken.
But, I am grateful.
Grateful that his prayer at 39 years old to just live long enough to see his twin babies (my dad and his sister) graduate from high school, was gracefully answered above and beyond what he could imagine. He lived to see great-great grandchildren.
Because of that grace, I got to have these memories.
I am grateful that we talked and laughed about these memories. Grateful that I told him repeatedly that loved him. And grateful that his legacy goes on. He has left his footprints. Lessons like choosing my words carefully, picking my battles, loving wisdom and knowledge – live on in me.
And during a good game of Spades…I can still talk some pretty impressive trash.
Good night Granddaddy, until we meet again in heaven where you are now “kickin’ high”.
I love you always,