Kind Father

My grandfather died last week, surrounded by his children, with his loving wife of 64 years at his side. He was 91, his name was Bobby, and he was a great guy who will be sorely missed. Those are the plain facts; that’s what happened.

But I heard a great quote the other day: every man is, in some ways, like every other man, like some other men, and like no other men.

Some men have wives they love. Some men spend decades married to the same woman. Some really blessed guys have wives of their youth to whom they are devoted for half a century and with whom were really in love—really best friends, really perfect for each other. Only B was married to Mamagin. Their wedding pictures were in the slideshow at the visitation. I noted them not only because of how beautiful and happy she looks, but because I wore that same dress when Thom and I got married. I don’t believe in luck, but they were together so long, and were so inseparable, that I thought it couldn’t hurt to copy as much as possible.

Some men are fathers. My mom only had one Dad. She adored him, she imitated him, she told stories about him and tried to make him proud. Some men have lots of kids. My grandfather had five children, but with every spouse and grandchild his family grew, and we all had our place in his orbit—and sitting with all of them at the funeral home, the balance was off somehow. He’s supposed to sit next to Mamagin; it looks asymmetric now.

My cousins and I put together a Google doc of all our memories, and my cousin shared them at the funeral. He did a great job—it helps that my grandfather was so quotable. He had that sense of humor where he jerks you around—he said stuff like, “woah, you sure got beat with the ugly stick this morning,” and, when I’d just had Andrew, he informed me, “you have really messed up. That baby has taken over the entire house.” He wasn’t mushy, he wasn’t a cuddler. And yet we used to fall asleep in his lap when we were babies. I would come into the house and say, “hey, B” and he’d answer “hey, baby.” Some men have grandchildren, but there are 14 bereft people walking around right now, the youngest in 4th grade and the oldest is me, with my gray hair. And we were all his.

We ARE all his. Love doesn’t stop when they bury you. He was a Christian and so are we—we know where he is. Yes, that helps, but when I started crying at the casket and felt like something was being torn out, I remembered Lazarus, and everybody crying, even Jesus. Yes, we know. Yes, we believe. And it’s also horrible.

It rained the whole time we were at the burial, and I was glad; I thought that made sense. The thought that other people weren’t feeling his loss didn’t register with me. Surely this was a ‘stop all the clocks’ situation.

My husband said to someone the other day, “pray for Linds, her grandfather isn’t doing well.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, shocked at the phrasing. “That’s not what’s happening. B is dying—I just went to tell him goodbye, and my grandmother is going to lose him and he didn’t LOOK like him—!”

He was an institution, almost a historic figure. Sure, there were ways he was like other men—he liked the same thing as lots of other guys of his generation. He had a dad and brothers he resembled. He loved his family. He believed the same thing that lots of other Christians believe. He stuck by his convictions. He wore University of Arkansas colors and read his Bible every night. He was a veteran. He was an engineer. He drank root beer and chewed tobacco.

He took me driving in his truck when I was little. He traveled a thousand miles to my high school graduation. He let me sleep in bed with him and Mamagin even when I was too big for that. He worried about me. He told me I should write a book about him because he’d had such an interesting life. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loved me.

And he loves me still. He loves us all still, all of us in black at the burial where he was there, but not there.

I’m leaning over the keyboard with nothing left to say.

It’s good to miss him, I know. Grief is part of life on this planet, and this is one of those times love hurts like having a part of your body taken away. I don’t want to polish this post anymore—my cousin did a great job at the memorial, and there were preachers to eulogize him. If I’m rambling I’m sorry. Something tells me I don’t have to say anymore, that if you’ve been through this with your own person who loved you and created a world around them that now feels empty, there’s nothing more I need to say.

Bobby Stevens left last week. He was my grandfather and I love him. I’ll close this with the prayer he always prayed at meals—

“Kind Father, accept our thanks for these and all our blessings, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

In Memory of Bobby Stevens, 1932-2023

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