I won’t get to the end of this post with dry eyes.
Had they both lived, today would be my Granny and Papa Wham’s 64th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately for the world in general and me in particular, they have both gone to their reward — I hope the reward which Granny taught about many times in 51 years to the women of the Martha Wham Bible Class at Dials Methodist Church and then at Beulah Baptist Church.
To say they were an incredible couple would be like saying Hurricane Andrew was a strong breeze. Papa returned from The War in Europe in September of 1945 and they were married in December. Papa was 26 and Granny was 24. Papa worked and Granny made a home. In the 45 years they were together they weathered, among many other things, the tragic death of a newborn daughter, a handsome son who was at once the apple of their eye and the bane of their existence, that son’s 13 month tour of duty in the bowels of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, a beautiful and beloved daughter with somewhat expensive tastes, building a house, grandchildren, the son’s divorce, a few hospitalizations, the deaths of many, many family members, sickness, health, riches, poverty, Granny’s stroke, and Papa’s emphysema . Their secret? A deep and abiding love the likes of which I have never, NEVER seen in any other couple I’ve ever watched.
It may be a cliche’ but they never fought. Papa was the undisputed king of the household and Granny was his seneschal. In thirty years, I heard Papa’s voice raised in anger twice. Both times, I was terrified because I had no experience with anything other than his kindness. He watched the Braves play ball while she baked pound cake. He napped on the couch while she read her Sunday School lesson. I wish I could describe their love for each other in proper terms, but I cannot because adjectives don’t exist on this lowly plane to adequately capture their feelings for each other. You couldn’t describe it, but my God how you could feel it!
I remember the last time they parted. Papa was in failing health and the effects of nursing him had begun to tell on Granny. She had a stroke in July of 1995. Papa died two days later. Daddy, Aunt Cathy, and I all believe Papa died of a broken heart. Cathy saw his face as he watched the EMTs place his blushing bride into the ambulance and she said it looked to her like he died right then. He simply could not live without knowing she would be at his side watching his back anymore. He could face German bullets and shells at Anzio and on Omaha Beach, but he couldn’t face life without Granny.
I was with Daddy when we told Granny in her hospital room that Papa was gone. One tear rolled down each cheek and she lowered her head. She never broke down and sobbed like some thought she would. She was too strong for that, but she was never the same. Granny entered a steady decline after Papa died even though she soldiered on in her role as matriarch for our sake. I always told everyone that Granny took care of the family and Papa took care of Granny. I also said that the day would come when she missed Papa and wanted to go find him more than she wanted to stay here and take care of us. That day came in February of 2008. With Aunt Cathy holding her hand and telling her we loved her and to tell Papa we all said hello, Granny left us to rejoin him.
Granny was famous for making Papa wait on her to get ready and check over the house. Despite his unbelievably good nature about everything else, Papa didn’t wait on anything or anyone patiently. In my mind’s eye, I could just see him the moment she arrived at the Pearly Gates, rising from the seat where he’d been waiting with Aunt Judy to say, “Mama, I’ve been waiting. What took you so long?” and her replying as she reached out to take his hand, “Daddy, I had to watch the children a while longer; I came as soon as I could.” Finally, after more than ten years, harmony returned to the Universe; Mot and Frank were together again.
Love y’all. Don’t forget to wash your feet.