There’s just something about the last day of the week that has always been special to me. As an adult, it meant the first day of two days off from work. It meant golf, doing household chores and family outings such as having friends over for grilling out. But, as a child, it had an even more special meaning to me. It meant no school or teachers for two whole days. It meant fishing, swimming or just playing my favorite sport with neighborhood friends. It meant many things to me as a child. But, what meant most to me on Saturday was that it was the day I would always go by my grandparents house to visit them. Grandma always pretty much kept to herself with chores around the house. It was grandpa who always took up time with me. I would be over to see him on the front porch on my way to fishing or whatever I had planned that day. Before I would go, I would sit and talk with my grandpa for a few minutes on his big front porch. I know me sitting with him on Saturdays meant a lot to him. Grandpa gave great advice on fishing, planting beans, okra, or any kind of vegetable. He was just a fountain of information. Who needed libraries when you had someone like my grandpa? Sometimes grandpa would go with me and the boys in the neighborhood. But, those times were rare since grandpa’s “ailments” limited him in what he could do. He never discussed what those “ailments” were exactly.
One Saturday morning, I came over early. Grandpa was sitting on the front porch as usual drinking his coffee. “How you doing grandpa? You up mighty early this morning,” I said. “Grandpa’s just not feeling too well this Saturday morning, Jimmy. I just feel a bit bad,” my grandpa weakly said. Now, I was concerned. My idea of going fishing with Mike and the rest of the neighborhood kids was the furthermost thing from my thoughts. “Well, let me go get you some of your medicine that grandma always gives you, grandpa. It always makes you feel better,” I said. Grandpa tried to protest, but I kept going into the house. “Grandma, grandpa just isn’t feeling well this morning. Has he taken his medicine? ” Grandma looked at me with sad, weary eyes. “Grandpa is just old, sweetheart. Just never you mind now about grandpa. You go do what you always do on Saturdays. That’s what grandma and your grandpa want you to do. You’re young. Enjoy your life as we have enjoyed ours, Jimmy,” grandma said. I did want to go fishing. But, first, I had to go check on grandpa one more time. “Grandpa, you sure you going to be okay? I’ll stay with you if you want me too.” That brought some much needed laughter from my grandpa. “That’s mighty nice of you, Jimbo. But, I know how much you love fishing on Saturday. Just go on about your day. Grandpa will be just fine. But, I do want you to drop by to show me what you caught,” grandpa said. I promised him I would do just that.
About two weeks later, grandpa had to go into the hospital. I was beside myself with worry. I was only 11 years old. But, I knew that grandpas and grandmas going into the hospital is not a good sign. Grandpa stayed in the hospital about a week as I think back now. He came home on an early Friday morning. I left school at lunchtime and did not go back (Yes, I got detention for a week as a result). I had to go see grandpa. There were several people around his house I did not recognize. I went into the house and was immediately spotted by my grandma. “Jimmy, what on earth are you doing out of school? You are going to turn right back around and go back or your mama and daddy will will find out from me you left school!” my irate grandmother said to me. I didn’t care. I wasn’t leaving grandpa. I pushed my way past these huge grownups and into the bedroom where my grandpa was sitting up in bed. “Boy, I thought I heard you in there. What are you…” “I come to see my grandpa!!! And, I don’t care if I get a whipping or not. I’m not leaving!” I interrupted my grandpa. Grandpa’s eyes sparkled as he chuckled. “Come here boy. Ain’t nobody going to whip you as long as grandpa is around.” Grandpa and I hugged and I could feel his ribs. Grandpa probably wasn’t eating much. “Then that means I’m never going to get a whipping, grandpa! Because you are always going to be around!” I said with a big smile. Grandpa rubbed my head and said, “I wouldn’t bet on that, Jimmy. But, I’m not gone yet. So, don’t you worry none, you hear?” my grandpa said. “Okay grandpa. Just get better so we can go fishing together,” I said. That made grandpa laugh and it made me feel better.
Grandpa steadily got better although he was not able to go fishing with me. I spent much more time on that front porch with my grandpa, especially on those Saturday mornings. He shared more fishing stories with me than he ever had in my previous 11 years. We laughed and talked about just about every subject you can imagine. One Friday after school, my grandma called to ask if I would stay with grandpa the next morning (Saturday morning) while she and Mrs. Strickland went into town for some much need groceries and to get grandpa’s prescriptions refilled. I had planned on going anyway to spend the entire Saturday with grandpa. I was running late that particular Saturday morning. When I got to my grandparents house, grandma was already gone. Grandpa was sitting on the front porch with his cup of coffee on the little bamboo coffee table. I said good morning to him and noticed he had gone to sleep. I sat down beside him and asked, “Grandpa, can I have some coffee?” I knew his answer would be no since he said I needed to have a beard before I drank coffee (I always thought that was an inside joke with grandpa). Grandpa did not answer me. Now, I was concerned. I grabbed grandpa by the arm and shook him. I noticed his arm was ice cold on a hot September day….and that he was not breathing. My beloved Grandpa was gone.
I sat crying beside my deceased grandpa on that Saturday morning for about 10 minutes, thinking of all the great times we had, all the stories he had shared with me. I looked at him through tears that I did not know I possessed. “I’ll always miss you, grandpa. I’ll always love you. I hope you knew that,” I said to him. I held his hand for another minute or so and then got up to walk to the street of the Strickland’s house to inform Mr. Strickland that my grandpa had died. But, before I crossed over to that little dirt road, I looked back at my grandpa on that front porch one more time. He seemed so contented, so at peace. Truth be known, that’s how my grandpa probably wanted to go out, on the front porch and on a Saturday morning with his favorite grandson one last time.