Friday, June 13, 2008

The Grandadiest of them All

With Father's Day on the horizon, I want to tell you about two men that had a profound impact on my life. Unfortunately, neither of which is my actual father. Now don't get me wrong, I honor Curtis Williams as the man that helped raise me, helped to provide for me, and until recently, was the man that I looked up to the most. But in recent years, I've reflected heavily on the things and people that have made me who I am today. And in hind sight, these 2 individuals have played a tremendous role in my life. And for this Father's Day blog, I would like to honor them. My Grandfathers, John B. Williams, and the Grandfather, Porter D. Campbell.

Grandfather John, or as some like to call him, Hundred Cuss word Johnny, was an amazing Man, and not always in a good way. See, my grandfather was an alcoholic. And growing up, I judged him for that. Partly because of things I heard other people say about him. Things that as a kid, I never should have heard. And because of some of those things, I struggled in my relationship with him for a long time. (I'm sorry about that grandfather). But in 1994, we moved back to Chicago from L.A., and I came back a snot nosed 16 year old who thought he new it all and had seen it all. Oh, not to mention that I was in love. Perfect for living with Mr. dose of reality himself.

I will tell you that almost nothing could have been better for my life at the time. See, what I didn't know at the time was that my grandfather less than 5 years left on this Earth. And in his own unique way, my Grandfather proceeded to impart to me many of the lessons that have helped me through some of my toughest times to date.

In June of '95, I spent part of the summer helping my Grandfather do some paint jobs. Lets just say that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, but I quickly learned. Lets just say that it was a baptism by fire. And it was a fire fueled by Seagram's Gin, paint thinner, and the hottest summer in recorded Chicago history! I was miserable waking up around 6am or so every morning. And then had to carry ladders, drop cloths and 5 gallon buckets of paint in 100+ degree temperatures. Brutal. But you know what, I did it. I toughed it out, and we finished the job. And what did I get for my trouble? About $50 from a $500 paint job. So was it worth it? Absolutely! I can say that the experience helped me to have the work ethic that I have today. And when a job seems a little tough for me, I know that I worked with the toughest boss I could imagine, and I came through it with flying colors. Chalk another one up for Johnny.

We went to his hometown of Starkville, Mississippi in July of '95, and other than viewing him at his funeral, it was the most at peace I ever saw him. That was the first time I ever realized that my Grandfather was a really great person, and it was just some of the circumstances and situations that made him the ornery person that he could be.

In September of, '95, I needed to take my driving test. My Grandfather John said that I could take the test in his car. I was so nervous heading to the DMV on 99th and King Drive. And my Grandfather knew it! So as I'm driving the five miles over there, my grandfather says to me "now Herky, you ain't got nothing to be nervous about. You know what you're doing boss. Just go up in there, and do what you gotta do, and lets go on home." And you know what, that's exactly what I did! And to this day, I remember pulling into the DMV parking lot, and seeing my grandfather standing in the parking lot, smoking one of his cigars with the biggest look of both worry and hope on his face. And I also remember the Cheshire cat smile that hit him when I told him that I passed. Now some of you might believe that since grandfather let me take the test in his car, he would let me borrow the car as needed. Well my friends, you abviously don't know John B. One of the rites of passage when it comes came to my Grandfather is that he had to tell you that his car was in for the night. I know what you're thinking, cars don't have curfews. Well any car owned by my Grandfather did. And other than my Uncle Phillip, every Williams Man, and some of the women, were told that his car was in for the night. I remember my dad hearing it when I was a kid, and I got my fair share of it when I was of age. Its ok Grandfather, it wasn't anything that I needed to be out there doing anyway. Lol

Now there are many more stories that I can share with you about my Grandfather. The time my brother and I made it to where he put salt in his morning coffe instead of sugar,(talk about being salty LOL), the night my Grandfather was drunk and told my brother and I about how he used to run with a gang back in St. Louis called the Compton Hill Angels (a hilarious story for another time) and his Golden Gloves boxing days or his brief stint in the military (hello Section 8). But the last story I want to share has been probably the most endearing to me.

In 1997, I had my heart broken by my first love. I don't recall the circumstances, but my Grandfather somehow brought the subject of it up to me one day. And he said to me "that girl in California broke your heart huh Herky." All I could respond with was yeah Grandfather. Honestly, that is the end of the story. Now I know that might not seem like much, but coming from my Grandfather, that spoke volumes. See, my Grandfather was not the type to have a heart to heart with you. (Unless he was drunk, and in such cases, he loved you like Richard Simmons loves fat white women). Though his words lasted all of 3-5 seconds, I know that my Grandfather, in his own special way, was saying I know you're hurting right now, but its gonna be ok. And the best part about all of it, he was stone cold sober when he did it. I've had many more heartaches with that very same woman over the past 11 years. And everytime, I've thought back on my grandfather's words, and you know what Grandfather, IT IS gonna be ok. And I Love You for letting me know that.

When my Grandfather passed away, I wasn't ready for him to go. I was just beginning to discover and understand who he was. Yet in another life lesson, his death taught me to cherish the time we have with those loved ones who are still with us. And with that, let me tell you about my GRANDFATHER.

See, it might seem strange for you to see grandfather in all caps, but trust me, that script can't even begin to accurately describe the man. I know you all have grandfathers, but Porter D. Campbell is the kind of grandfather that you all would want your grandfathers to take a class from (call it grandfathering 101 & amp;102). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he's perfect. However I will say that he's perfect for me. (And Cory, Courtney, Britt, Brandon, Kenny, Lizzy and lil Cory).

Now I didn't always know this. As a matter of fact, there were times in which I used to ask God, myself and of course my mom, "where did ya'll get him from?"

See, my Grandfather is well versed in, well, everything. And much to our benefit now, but not so much in my teen years, he's more than willing to share that with you. And it used to bother me, until I realized that in many ways, I am the exact same way. (My knowledge is not even close to being as vast as his). So growing up, saying something like: Jesus was a black Man, or the Bulls need to get rid of Ron Harper, or even less controversial statements like I hate cucumbers could start a diatribe that could last, if he decided, until the next day. (Oh, and don't think sleep would save you. My Grandfather hasn't slept since the 60s. Every closed eye ain't sleep).

Now I'm 29, and I understand. My Grandfather only knows one way to be, and that's the way his father raised him. And what was wrong with our relationship when I was younger had nothing to do with who my grandfather is, and everything to do with who I was. I wanted my grandfather to conform to me, and what I wanted.

Silly me, there was as much of a chance of that happening as there was that Grandfather john would give up cursing. For a day. (What can I say, he was addicted, don't judge him).

The fact that my Grandfather didn't conform to me was the best thing possible. I can think back on all those many conversations and, now that I'm old enough, confirm that my Grandfather was absolutely right. And he was speaking to me not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear. And that's just how much he loved me.

I have many stories that I could tell you about my Grandfather, but you need only hear one to understand our relationship. My brother and I used to come and stay with our grandparents for a few summers. Well, my grandfather used to work ALL the time. And when he got home, he pretty much ate, and closed his eyes. (Remember, he doesn't sleep).

So this particular night, my grandfather came home, and cooked dinner for my granny, and my brother and me. I don't know exactly what he called the dish, but all you need to know is that it was doused with ginger.

Well, my brother and I tried. I promise you we did, but we couldn't take it. It wasn't our style. However, we were still young enough to hear the term "finish your food". So my brother and I sat at that table for what I'd say was about an hour or more. I remember trying to first talk my brother into, and then intimidating him into asking grandfather could we have something else to eat. Well, Grandfather was having none of that. He said "if you guys are done, wrap your plates, and they'll be there when you're ready for them".

Well we thought we were golden. Plates are on the back porch fridge, we're done with that. (Plus we grew up with the King of Leftovers, Curtis Williams, so in our minds, those plates wouldn't be in there long. Grandfather would probably finish that up for us).

So late that night, my brother and I started gettin hungry. (We ate very little of the ginger dish). Well I tried to get my brother to go get us something to eat. He was having none of that. So I said fine, lets both go get it. So we went downstairs and tried to gather the necessary items for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Not 2 minutes into making these sandwiches, I looked over my shoulder, and who's standing there? Yeah, Grandfather. (At that moment in time, I didn't realize Grandfather didn't sleep).

The Man said nothing to us!

My brother and I proceeded to put all the items back. Once that was done, we marched back upstairs, stomachs still rumbling. So what was the lesson in that? Well, I still don't know. All I have been able to take from that is that I need to check if there will be ginger in the dish that I'm ordering and that my Grandfather means what he says. Not just when it comes to punishments, but in everything. He is a Man who will always honor his word. And I have to admit, the man has absolutely never let me down. I didn't say he hasn't upset me at times, but he's always done what he said he would.

So to my Grandfathers, I Love You both tremendously. I thank you for all that you have taught me. I thank you for standing in the gap for my own father. I pray that I have made you proud. And don't worry, when the time is right, I know I will be a great Grandfather. There's no way I couldn't be. I had the 2 best teachers ever.

Happy Father's Day to all the Fathers out there. To those of you who just have kids, its time to step up and be their fathers!


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