Musings from some former inhabitants of the sprawling metropolis that is Prudhomme City

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Pap-Pap

So forgive me, dear peeps, if I become a bit sentimental and sappy in the course of this post. You see, today is a special day. Way back in 1908, an incredible person was deposited on Earth, my maternal grandfather. My Pap-Pap. He was one of eight children, three girls (one set of twins!) and five boys, born to John and Margaret Green in Irvona, Pennsylvania. His full given name was Charles Leroy Green. In the handful of times that his full name came up in conversation between my very Southern friends and me, the response was always the same. They would look at me in confusion and then, hesitatingly and in hushed tones, lean in and say, " So...your grandpa...is...black?" You see, the only people with the surname Green down here are African-Americans. And that name sure does sound like a solid brother's name, don't it? Bad, bad Leroy Brown, baddest man in the whole d**n town! At any rate, no one knows where my great-grandmother came up with Leroy, but I've been told that she always insisted that it was NOT pronounced Lee-Roy but Le' Roy, like the French version. Every time I hear this story, I fall in love with this woman. Of course! Le'Roy. How very continental! The other thing is it got shortened to Roy, and that's what he went by all of his life. But why did he end up being called by a shortened version of his middle name? Well, beyond the obvious lack of appreciation for Frenchie-sounding names in the mountains of Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, my Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather Green took turns choosing the first names of the kids. If it wasn't Great-Grandma Green's turn to choose the first name, she got to choose the middle name and vice-versa. You see where I'm going with this. Whatever name she chose for the kid is the one they got called, thus my grandpa became Roy, not Charles, the name Great-Grandpa Green had chosen. This story also makes me fall in love with my great-grandma. I can just imagine her thinking, Sure, we'll take turns choosing names, but I'll be d***ned if I'm gonna call 'em by the one you chose. Did I mention that in her youth Great-Grandma Green was a redhead? Yeah, fiery! My oldest brother's middle name is Roy. I call him Charlie Roy quite often, which he doesn't like at all, but it reminds me of my grandpa. I think it's an honor to share his name.

Here's a picture of Pap-Pap.

One of the best things about Pap-Pap was his infinite patience with people, especially my grandma who, I've heard, could be a bit...demanding on occasion. (Personally, I never experienced anything but massive spoiling by Mom-Mom.) There is a particular story, related to this, that I love. My dad tells it. One time when my parents were visiting them, Mom-Mom sent Pap-Pap and Daddy off to the store to pick up a few things. As they headed toward the door, Mom-Mom called out, "Oh, Roy!" sending them scuttling back to the kitchen to add to the list. This happened a few more times. Each time as they were headed toward the door, Mom-Mom would chirp, "Oh, Roy!" and they would go back to have her add to the list. Finally, as they headed toward the door and "Oh, Roy!" came from the kitchen, Pap-Pap snagged my dad's elbow and propelled him out the door, leaning over and muttering, "Keep walking, Charlie!" Apparently, even this great man had his limits. That story cracks me up. Pap-Pap was really devoted to Mom-Mom. He desperately wanted to experience traveling in an airplane, but she was scared to death of flying and never would get on one. They always traveled by train when they came down to Louisiana to see us. He never did get on a plane.

From the time I was a baby until I was four, Dad was still in the Air Force and was stationed at the Pentagon in Virginia, so we got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. This is a picture of their house in Irvona. I took this on a trip to see Mom-Mom in 2005, but it still looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was a kid.

As a wee lass and unable to pronounce my L's, my mother says I would stalk over to Pap-Pap and demand of him, "Pap-Pap, yemme on your yap!" She said he loved it and would sit with me on his lap for hours. He played the piano, self-taught, and would sit and play and sing for us. He used to sing "K-K-K Katy," a song written during World War I, to me. Here is the chorus, the part I remember best:

K-K-K-Katie, beautiful Katie,
You're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore,

When the m-m-m-moon shines

Over the cowshed,
I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.
I remember this.

One of my first memories is of Easter in Irvona while standing in my grandparent's home and gazing out of the picture window in their dining room with my sister Jen and Pap-Pap. We were looking at a bunny sitting under a big pine tree, and Pap-Pap leaned over and pointed and said something like, "Look, girls, the Easter bunny just for you!" In my four-year-old mind, he instantly became my hero. This man had the real Easter bunny in his yard. He must be someone special!

We moved back to Louisiana when I was five, and we rarely got to see my grandparents. Visits were infrequent, one every five years or so. Then I spent part of my ninth grade year of high school living in Pennsylvania with my great-aunt and uncle. I spent a few weekends with my grandparents in Irvona. Mom-Mom was always worried about me "being bored to death up here with two old people," but I loved it. I'll never forget watching the famous Boston College vs. Miami game with Pap-Pap, the one where Doug Flutie threw his miracle touchdown. "How 'bout that, Kate!" he exclaimed. I have a special place in my heart for that game. I even Tivoed it and burned it to DVD a few years ago when it was on ESPN Classics. It makes me think of Pap-Pap. As you can see, I also keep the picture of him from above in a frame on my desk at home.

Pap-pap died of a stroke in 1993 and is buried in a graveyard in Beulah, right down the road from Irvona. This is a picture I took in 2005 from the hill above his grave site.

Mom-Mom visits Pap-Pap's grave regularly. She is now 95 years old. Fourteen years since he passed away and I don't know if she misses him any less now than she did the day after he died. I know I don't. So, on this day, here's to you, Pap-Pap. I will never, ever forget you.

1 comment:

Miyax said...

I love you so much Katie! Thank you for writing this piece. You are your pap-pap's girl.