Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Grandfather's Flag.

Yesterday an American Flag came to rest at my home. Not just any American Flag but the Flag that covered my Grandfather's casket when he died in 1994. (William Broadrick a.k.a. Bill, a.k.a Papaw)

My sister Debby called me Sunday on her way back from Lakeland to tell me she had it. I was shocked. My Grandmother (Annie L. Broadrick)had died in 2006 and so much of what she had was lost or missing. I had not thought about that flag for a very long time. And yet here it was...on it's way to my house. My Daddy (Eddie) and Step Mom (Lisa) had what they could find of my grandmothers possessions in storage and were gradually going through it. They found the flag last weekend while Deb was there.

After Deb left I just looked at it. The memories came flooding back....

William Broadrick was a Drill Sergeant who served in the United States Army for 21 years. He served in the U.S. and abroad during World War 2. I lived with my grandparents from the age of 13 to 16 yrs. old. During that time I joined Army JROTC at my high school and that made him really proud of me. I really liked it plus it gave us a bit of a special connection. By the time I moved in with them he was retired and spent most of his days hunting, fishing and breeding and training bird dogs.

He was pretty hard core even as a retiree. He had a no-nonsense-take-no-bull attitude 24/7. Sometimes I was scared of him but I loved him very much. He stayed in my life consistently from my birth til his death in 1994. He also loved me very much but was not good at showing that kind of thing. That was OK. I KNEW he loved me.

One memory I have of him was when my sister and I had moved from Columbus Ga. to Houston TX. with my Mom (Linda) and Step Dad (Johnnie). Prior to that we stayed with our grandparents most weekends and we missed them so much. I remember seeing them after we got off the plane and running through the Atlanta airport into his arms. He saw us and started whooping and laughing and dropped to his knees as we began running. We almost knocked him over. Grandma said later that all he had talked about in the days leading up to our arrival was how much he missed us and couldn't wait to drive to Atl. to pick us up.

He hunted and fished on the Ft. Benning Ga. reservation, Drove an Army green Volkswagen Thing and a huge Ram truck, and loved Krystal Sunrisers for breakfast. Actually he loved Krystal any time. Sometimes we would make a Krystal run before Grandma got home from work and would have to be sneaky about it because she would get mad we would spoil our dinner. He kept live quail in the backyard to teach his hunting dogs how to hunt, would bleed game by hanging it from the big tree by the back door, and liked to smack Grandma on her butt when I was looking so she would yell at him while he winked at me and laughed.

He liked hot toddies at night and an occasional glass of Blue Nun wine. He loved eating cornbread crumbled in buttermilk. He liked to hang out at the gas station where they did car repairs on our vehicles. He thought it was funny when I would kiss his sunburned bald spot on top of his head. He kept loaded rifles all over the house and liked pocket watches. He snored like a freight train. He had a great sense of humor and his best friends all served with him in the Army, Sgt. Acock, Uncle Montgomery, (not a blood relative but out families were so close we called him and his beautiful Japanese wife June our Aunt and Uncle) Sgt. Porter and others whose names elude me. He had a moonshine still on the Ft. Benning reservation and kept moonshine under the kitchen sink. I don't recall ever seeing him drink it but he liked to give it to others to drink when they visited. Sometimes Grandma and I would ride out to whatever Ft. Benning lake he was fishing at and we would fish a little bit with him. He wore camouflage a lot but what he wore most were pale blue or white button up short sleeved shirts and navy blue dress pants--always creased and starched.

One time he told me a story about being stationed in France with Grandma. They were fighting and he was so mad he didn't even want her to cook for him. He decided to make a pan of fried okra for himself. He got the okra ready, found a canister that he thought was cornmeal and used that for the breading. He heated the grease on the stove til it was ready and dropped in some okra. He said he knew something was wrong when the okra started sort of exploding all over the pan. Turns out that wasn't cornmeal. It was grits and Grandma had the last laugh in that fight. He said he never tried to cook for himself while he was mad again because he should have noticed something strange about that "cornmeal".

He loved cable T.V. Heehaw and Lawrence Welk were watched faithfully, along with TBS (Charlie Chan, The Bowery Boys, Little Rascals, Abbott and Costello, Three Stooges,) and Headline News. He read the entire newspaper every single day and retired from his second career at the Columbus Ledger and Enquirer Newspaper. I think he worked in the print department. I can remember driving there with Grandma to take him his dinner at sunset. He always came out and waved at me sitting in the car. Debby remembers Papaw making us hats out of sheets of newspaper and she thought that was the coolest thing. He was a Mason. His hands were huge. He had a very Georgia southern accent. His people were from Dalton Ga. and he had a book that showed where his great great great great (I don't know how many greats) grandmother was the first female school principal in the entire state of Georgia. He was very proud of that. I remember him and Grandma coming to Atlanta and watching me graduate, afterward going to the 57th Fighter Group restaurant to celebrate. I was 17 years old. I knew they were both so proud of me because I had been making some pretty stupid decisions and almost didn't graduate. Education was important to him.

I remember getting him in hot water one time with Grandma. She would leave for work in the mornings before I left for the bus stop. I would pass through the living room on my way out the door and he always had these aerobics shows on T.V. Skimpy leotard-you get the picture. Well one day I asked my Grandma why he just watched if he wanted to lose weight? Why not get up and exercise too? She got mad as a hornet (I understand why now but at the time I was not sure what the heck made her so mad) and when we got home she sure told him off. I felt really bad for him and it wasn't funny then but it's funny now.

I remember he outed my Aunt Bea's cooking one time. Aunt Bea was Grandmas older sister and quite a character in her own right. By "outed," I mean she didn't exactly tell me the truth about what I was eating. I never could get past the idea of eating rabbit or squirrel. I'm sure they snuck it past me but I never caught it til Aunt Bea visited. As we sat down to eat I didn't recognize the gravy covered meat on the table so I asked what it was. Before anyone could answer Aunt Bea said, "Pressed turkey." I believed her. And honestly it was delicious. At the end of the meal Papaw wiped his mouth with his napkin and said, "Bea? That was some GOOD rabbit." I almost died. I was so mad. She yelled, "Turkey! it's pressed turkey!" but it was too late. I got really upset and left the table. I eventually got over it but was a very suspicious eater for a long time. It is funny now though, the look of uh-oh on his face, Grandma laughing and Aunt Bea trying to recover.

After I grew up I joined the Navy and moved far away for several years but tried to get back there some. Papaw got cancer sometime during the late 80's early 90's but that information was not really shared or talked about.

In the early 90's I went to visit with my husband Chad (who was also active duty Navy) and Papaw called us aside and gave me a beautiful gold nugget ring with a solid gold Mexican peso in it. I was a little surprised because I wasn't aware of just how sick he was. He didn't look bad, just older and a bit tired. He said he knew I had always liked that ring and wanted me to have it. He also said that he was afraid if he didn't give it to me while he was still alive that Grandma wouldn't part with it and he really wanted me to have it. That threw me a bit. I shushed him and said he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon and Chad agreed. It was then that it began to dawn on me things were not going well with the cancer treatment.

I found out later that he had been given six months to live but he actually lived six years. It had to be the fact he was so hard core and no one tells an Army Drill Sergeant what to do, including giving up the fight to live. The last time I saw him and he was still at living home he was walking with a cane, miserable at not being able to hunt and fish and so unhappy about his lack of mobility. I found out later his cancer and spread from his prostate to his bones. An experimental chemo cocktail that he agreed to take had ended up doing more harm than good. His immune system shot, he succumbed to pneumonia in the summer of 1994.

I noticed he had mellowed in the last few years of his life. He began to say I love you more, hugged longer, became almost touchy-feely, which was so unlike the man I lived with. He became softer and easier to love. He was slower to anger, as a matter of fact his temper seemed to disappear altogether.

Chad and I had just separated and were discussing permanent dissolution of our marriage when Papaw died. It blindsided us both. Chad and Papaw had a great relationship and much mutual respect for one another. Our families did not know we had separated and Papaw's passing was not the time to tell them so we kept silent about it. Grandma asked that Chad do the military honors for my Grandfather and he did. At the funeral I watched Chad perform; under enormous emotional pressure, an act of service to my veteran Grandfather that I appreciate to this day. Even as our marriage was falling apart, with so many questions looming about the future of "us," and our two-year old daughter Alyssa, Chad brought honor, dignity and grace to my Papaws funeral and honored my Grandmother's wish that not just any soldier do the honors-she wanted him honored by Chad.

I found out something else I didn't know about my Papaw at the funeral. I did not know he was a man of God-that he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior before he died and it wasn't a deathbed conversion. He had been saved for a good while before he took a turn for the worst. Even though I was not a Christian at that time it gave me great comfort to know that he would spend all of eternity in Heaven. Six years later I totally surrendered my life to Christ and it gives me so much joy to know that I have all of eternity to spend with Papaw and Grandma in Heaven, making up for the time lost and wasted apart here on earth.

I wanted to put my memories of Papaw somewhere because it was important to me for many reasons. I want my younger siblings to know things about him that they never got the chance to experience first-hand. His wit, his patriotism, and even his mistakes. I wanted a preservation of what I knew of him and any other family members who want to email me your memories or pictures of him I will gladly post them here.