Today, September 1st, 19 years ago my grandfather or "pap" (as I affectionately called him) died.
As is the case with the majority of people my grandparents are really special people, but mine were not just grandparents.
When I was around 10 months old my dad walked away from our family. Immediately after my my pap took over the dad spot. He took me in, loved me, disciplined me, encouraged me, guided me, and much more. I have several fond memories of spending time with him.
Initially I would only see him on Sunday’s and then sometimes during the week and weekends I would stay the night, but then when I was in the 2nd grade I officially moved in with him and my Grandmother. My grandparents took me in; they gave me my own room, my own bed, and so on. They literally treated me as if I was a son and not a grandson.
My pap was a former truck driver. He drove truck for several years, and even had owned his own trucking company in the past. I remember riding in the trucks with him when I was a child. It was very fun; the truck engines were so powerful. My favorite was an old red Mack truck! It was just really cool looking and fun to ride in. It was old but powerful. It looked similar to the initial truck that Sylvester Stallone drove in Over the Top before he won the new rig. Anyways I remember the sadness on the day that my pap and I drove the truck on its last trip. We pulled into the junk yard and that was it. The Mack Truck had seen better days. Part of me wishes that I could somehow find that truck and restore it back to its original condition, but I am sure that it is long gone. I also remember spending time at the truck dock, playing inside and out.
My pap was just a firm, but loving man. He showed me discipline when I needed it, but he also showed me an overflow of love and compassion. I only hope that I too can give as much love he showed to my children. I remember him giving me manly hugs, wrapping me up in his tough truck driver arms. I remember him defending me if anyone and I mean anyone ever said or did anything to me. He was literally my rock, my encourager, my teacher, and my best friend. I remember how he would tuck me into bed, kneel down at my bed and say the Lord’s Prayer with me. The list goes on and on of my memories of him.
The day before he died, I went to the hospital to see him. My family was all there and they were crying, I began to cry myself. Then on September 1st 1996, two days before my 12th birthday when I was in the 6th grade, he went home to be with the Lord. I think of him often. He was such a great mentor, and I am truly thankful that God had brought him into my life. I am truly thankful for all he had taught me, all he had done for me. He took me in and helped me when I was on the path of fatherlessness. The statistics for fatherless children are astounding, and through my pap and other mentors after his death, I didn’t have to become a statistic.
If you are a grandparent helping raise your grandchildren, keep going. That child or teen needs you. It will not always be easy. There will most likely be struggles, but the reward in the end is amazing! Don't give up! If you are a mentor, keep going! If you are thinking about mentoring, do it! Mentoring saves lives. It saved mine! I believe God used the mentors in my life to lead me into the ministry.
As I close, thank you Pap! I love and miss you. What you did for me, saved my life!