Normally I love to give you a delightful visual when you arrive on my "Cottage" doorstep. But, today I am going to take a little creative license and talk about one of my favorite subjects, my grandfather. My mother's father was the son of a farmer born into a family of 10 brothers and sisters. It was a loving family and a hard working one. The children were all expected to help with the chores and be productive from an early age. This was something that, as I imagine it, must have come easy for my grandfather. He was a kind and joyful-hearted man, and though I didn't know him as a youngster, I am sure that he was a generous and loving son. He went into the military in his late teens, and later came home from a tour in Europe to fall in love with and marry my grandmother.
As a newlywed, he began working in a small town bank. Starting out as a teller, his determination to be an outstanding employee and his ambition soon pushed him into jobs with greater responsibility. Eventually this led to his becoming president of the bank in the town where I grew up. He held this position until his premature death from lung cancer in 1978. He was loved and respected by many, and at that time was the youngest president of Alabama Bankers Association. But, to me he was simply the most wonderful grandfather I could have ever imagined.
When I was a baby and my father was away at school, my mother and I lived with my grandparents. This was the genesis, I suspect, of some serious early bonding with my grandfather. And I can remember from a very early age how special I felt when in his presence. He adored me, and I adored him. And on Wednesdays (back in those days) bankers had the day off. So, many times he would concoct some scheme for the two of us to spend some of that day together doing something special. He would take me riding in his car or take me to the drugstore for milk shakes or a book of paper dolls. He would drive me to the next town to see the monkeys that the owners of the local hardware store kept in cages outside their store. And one time I remember him taking me for a ride in his golf cart... he drove me from his house, across a four lane highway (we're talking small town, low traffic, here), and on to the golf course for a few "lessons."
He was really my hero in so many ways. He had an incredible sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. He loved helping people, especially those less fortunate than he. He made me feel so special, and he made me feel respected and treasured. And most of all, he loved me unconditionally. I am thankful for Wednesday bankers' hours in those days because they gave me the opportunity to make some awesome memories with one of the finest men I have ever known.
On the day of my graduation from high school, my grandmother handed me an envelope. As I looked at it, I noticed that the envelope had the logo from the bank. I thought this was a little odd because my grandfather had been gone for several years. When I opened the envelope, I saw the familiar letterhead with the bank logo in brown and the unique brown type that my grandfather had used as bank president. The letter was dated just months before his death and began by telling me that though he hoped that he would live much longer than the doctors predicted, he wanted me to have this letter of his memories of me. Then he recounted in detail some of his fond memories of our times together. He told me that he had always wished he had known his grandfather and had something to remember him by, but had not. So, he wanted me to have this to keep, to remember him and to know how special I was to him.
I still have the letter and take it out to read it every now and then. And though by now I have much of it in my memory, I still love to hold it and look at that familiar brown logo, brown type, and his precious signature. What a treasure... it didn't cost him anything to do that, but I can't imagine anything else he could have given me that would have meant more.