Grandparents

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Yesterday was the viewing and today is the funeral for Pa…

The sign

This isn’t the boys’ first experience with the death of a loved one. They lost their Nanny Vera (Cindy’s mom) a few years ago, but they were only 3-years-old and really too young to comprehend what was happening. This time around, they saw and spoke to Pa while he lay sick in his bed. Now they’ve seen him lying in his casket, and although they seem to sense the weightiness of the situation, they’re still protected by a childhood innocence. The most interesting thing was their compulsion to touch Pa…they laid their hands on his forehead. During our drive to Virginia, we talked about Pa and I explained that he was dying. Alex asked if he was going to Heaven to be with God. I said, “Yes he is.”

My cousin Mark, who is a Methodist pastor, performed the funeral. I was touched by his words. The sky had opened up about an hour before and the rain was pouring down. Mark reminded everyone that Pa was a farmer and would’ve appreciated the rain. This made me smile. After the ceremony, we moved to the gravesite. I was one of the pall-bearers and helped lift Pa’s casket into the Hearse and from the Hearse to the grave stand.

Casket

Mark said a prayer at the gravesite and we left Pa to the funeral workers to lay him next to Granny to whom he has now been reunited…

Gravestone

WELCOME HOME!

Granny and Pa

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Last night we got the call. My Uncle Jerry, who was staying with Pa through the night, called about 10:50 p.m. with the news. Everyone was in bed, so I answered the phone, and Jerry said, rather simply, “Well…Pa’s gone.” I asked how it happened and he said Pa went in his sleep–he just stopped breathing. The Hospice nurse was on the way and making arrangements to move Pa’s body to the funeral home. I woke mom and let her know. Although we knew it was coming, it was a strange feeling…a kind of hollow feeling. I didn’t sleep well.

Pa at Mabry Mill

“Pa” Collins was 99-years-old. He was a farmer and a sharecropper, and over the years he also worked the sawmill, on a road crew, and as a janitor at the local elastic plant. He was a simple man, and honest. He couldn’t read very well, and aside from his name, couldn’t really write, either. But he could tell you how to rotate your crops to maintain the soil, so the field wouldn’t need to lie fallow. He could raise and keep horses, cattle, pigs, and train a dog not to roam. He could grow, harvest, cure tobacco, and sell the crop at market. When my dad and I built a tree house for my kids up above his house, Pa explained how it wasn’t going to remain stable for very long due to the way we secured it to the tree, and as the tree grew, well, you can guess the rest! When he was a young man, he made illegal moonshine with his brother-in-law Frank, and even showed me how to do it using a mock-up still that was on display at Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He may have been a simple man, but in many, many ways, he was smarter, and certainly much wiser than I.

Pa never said much, but when you got him alone, he would open-up with stories. I remember visiting him once and there was no one else around. I wanted to take some pictures of the old buildings on the farm and especially around the old tobacco smokehouse in the pasture below his house. Pa came with me and as I snapped pictures, he talked about the buildings–how they were built, the purpose they served, the work he did in them. He told me he would sometimes walk out to the barn in the afternoon and take a nap on the bails of hay stacked there. He loved his home and the land it was on. When we returned to the house, Pa asked me if I wanted a beer, as he pulled two cans of Bush out of the refrigerator–I don’t think I had ever seen him drink. We sat on his porch, sipped our beer, and watched the occasional car drive by the house, returning the inevitable wave delivered by the driver of the vehicle. We didn’t say much and were just content with each other’s company. And now that I think back on it, I never enjoyed a beer quite as much as I did that day.

I miss you, Pa.

Pa and the Gator hat

Lee Eligah Collins
February 9, 1919 – July 3, 2018

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So, we’re in Virginia and visiting family. I wish our trip was under better circumstances, as my 99-year-old grandfather (“Pa”) is very ill and not expected to make it through the weekend. Right now he’s home and being attended to by family and Hospice. We drove up yesterday and headed straight to his house. Most of the family were there, so it was pretty crowded. Everyone who came to the house came in to say “hello” to Pa and sit with him for a bit while he lay in his bed; there was singing and a lot of laughter. Although he couldn’t speak very well and he was very weak, I believe he enjoyed the visits.

Today, we spent most of the day with Pa. It was a little rough on the boys, but fortunately, their cousin Mike was there to treat them to rides on his four-wheeler…

Four-Wheeling Four-Wheeling

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It’s hard to believe the twins are 9-years-old! I can remember the day they were born as if it were yesterday! Cindy’s blood-pressure shot up the day before and it wouldn’t go down, so Dr. Christy scheduled the c-section for early the next morning. The procedure was quick and by early afternoon the boys were whisked off to the neonatal ICU (in a different hospital) as a precaution. Cindy only got to see them briefly before they were loaded in the ambulance for the trip across town. After about 24-hours both boys were thriving and we got to bring them home soon after. Then we didn’t sleep for a year! 😛

We sleep a lot better now, of course, and the boys are a lot of fun. Their birthday this year was a simple affair, with a few friends joining them yesterday afternoon at Rebounders, then coming to the house for pizza and cake…

Birthday Party

As usual, they each get a cake…

Birthday Party

This morning, they awoke to their presents, which featured a home-made toy train from “Poppy”…

Toy Train

and each was hauling 9 gold dollar coins…

Toy Train Toy Train
Toy Train Toy Train

And if that wasn’t enough, Mom and Dad got ’em brand new iPads…

iPads

All-in-all, not a bad birthday. I guess turning 9 is pretty great! When I turned 9, I think I got a toy Thompson sub-machine gun and a Partridge Family album. I shoulda put the Partridge Family on their iPads!

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Another reason for the family trip to SW Florida was so we could present this shadowbox to my father-in-law for his birthday. He served 20-years in the US Air Force, but he didn’t have ANY reminders of his service, they being lost to the passage of time. All he had were some papers in a briefcase he kept in his closet. Fortunately, one of those papers was his DD214, which contained most of the of the information needed to construct the shadowbox, and short conversation provided the rest.

Happy Birthday, “Poppy”…and thanks for your service!

Shadowbox

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Well, the boys were up at 5:00 a.m. and a few minutes later they were at the side of the bed informing me that Santa had indeed visited them while they slept. This was a great relief for Adam because he was almost certain he was on the naughty list. Anyway, everyone else was still snoozing, so I started some coffee and the boys brought their stockings to the front of the tree…

Boys with their stockings

Fortunately, Santa had left the boys enough in their stockings to keep them occupied until the coffee was done and everyone was up. Then, we passed-out the presents and they went to town…

Opening presents

Opening presents

My favorite presents every year are the one’s the boys’ buy at their school’s Christmas shop…

Opening presents Opening presents

After the gifts were opened and the wrapping paper, boxes, and other packaging were cleared-out, we retired to the kitchen for breakfast, which included Cindy’s specialty, reindeer pancakes, for the boys…

Reindeer Pancakes

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and the family is gathering at the home of my 97-year-old grandfather, affectionately known as “Pa”. In about an hour, this old turn-of-the-20th-century house will be filled to the brim with people, all family…

Pa's House

Something like this…and this isn’t everyone! Six generations are represented here tonight.

Crowd

Of course, the highlight of the evening is the kids sitting at Pa’s feet and opening their presents . When I was a kid (and the family was quite a bit smaller) we all used to draw names and each would buy a present for the person he or she chose. Now, it’s become a bit unwieldy, so parents bring modest presents for their kids and Pa presents his gifts, and everyone brings something for Pa. This year, Pa’s gifts included a Florida Gator hat (I wonder who got him that 😉 )

Kids opening presents Pa with his Gator hat

After the Christmas Eve activities at Pa’s, we returned to Mom and Dad’s cabin on the hill to get ready for Santa’s visit. So, after a couple quick photo’s with the selfie-stick…

Family Selfie Cindy Selfie

the stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

Stockings

in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…

Santa

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Nana and Pop wanted to wait until the boys arrived to put-up the Christmas tree. But first, we have to cut down the tree, which means a visit to the tree farm. Once there, the boys are given a mission: Locate the Christmas tree…

Christmas Tree

Finally, among the hundreds of trees lining these hills, we find the perfect tree…

Christmas Tree

And with the pull of the cord and a quick swipe with the chainsaw, Pop cuts down our Christmas tree. The boys are pretty proud of themselves

Christmas Tree

Now, we’re gonna meet Mom and Nana for breakfast! Then Mom and Nana can decorate the tree 😉

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It’s always a GREAT day when the boys get to visit their GREAT grandfather (a.k.a. “Pa”). Pa was a sharecropper and a respected man among the other farmers in the area…around town they still refer to him as “Mr. Lee”

Mr Lee

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After a great 4th of July weekend with the grandkids, the boys and I are taking a road trip to Virginia to visit the grandparents (and great grandpa!). We arrived yesterday and after a good night’s sleep, headed-up the Blue Ridge Parkway for some breakfast at Mabrey Mill. We come here often when we’re visiting the family. It’s a great drive up the mountain and the scenery is breathtaking…

Mabry Mill

and the obligatory family-in-front-of-the-old-mill picture is…

Family

They used to make molasses, apple butter, and cornmeal using the old farm methods, but in recent years, the health department said they couldn’t do it any more because it wasn’t “safe”. Of course, it had been done this way for more than 100-years…well, anyway.

You can still see inside the working mill…

Inside the Wheel House

and learn about moonshine, blacksmithing, weaving cotton, and playing checkers with little corncob checkers…

Checkers Checkers

and best of all, to stroll down memory lane remembering the boys first visit to Mabry Mill…(then and now)

Adam and Alex in the Wagon Adam and Alex in the Wagon

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