My paternal grandfather died when I was 14 and my maternal grandfather when I was 18. But I never realized until yesterday that there is a tiny little hole in my life that wants to be filled up with grandfatherly advice.
Beau’s surviving grandfather — Sam Epperson, affectionately known as “D” to Beau and his sibs — was instrumental in Beau’s upbringing and is a true Southern gentleman. Unfortunately, the miles stretch wide between Montana and Alabama and we don’t get to see D and the rest of the Alabama family too often. And, I’m ashamed to say, we rarely take the time to call him on the phone.
But yesterday, while Beau was out in the hills moving cows, I had to call D’s house to rummage up an address — you may remember from my March 8… post that I was (finally) hustling to finish up my Christmas cards (three months late). I and the kids all visited on the phone with Beau’s grandmother for a while — her grandkids and greats know her fondly as “Ma” — and then I had a good visit with D. We talked about the price of plane tickets, about all the other grandkids he is fiercely proud of, about homeschooling and education.
And then he asked me about “Tadpole.” (That’s been D’s nickname for Beau since Beau was in the womb, and, to make things even funnier in a Deep South sort of way, “Beau” isn’t my husband’s legal name either, though he’s been known by Beau since he was an infant.)
Specifically, D was curious about what exactly Tadpole’s position is here at the PV Ranch.
“None of us really know,” I replied as best I could. I went on to explain to D that my own dad is still the one in charge around here, at the ranch where I was raised and where Dad has worked for nearly 50 years. But, as I told D, as my folks find it more difficult to do everything they once did around here, Beau is taking on more and more ranch responsibility. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I promised D that Beau does pretty darn good at proceeding with respect in his relationship with my dad.
“Still,” I half complained to D, “Dad doesn’t make it any too easy on us. It’s not like he’s ever gonna tell us he really appreciates us being here.”
D grunted on the other end of the line. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” he drawled in his low country accent. “A person does what ought to be done just because it ought to be done. Not because he’s gonna get a pat on the back.”
For some reason, D’s words sang in my ears. In this hard-edged, old-fashioned Eastern Montana cowboy world of ours where important men don’t often say what needs to be said and maybe even take pride in not saying it… to hear D actually put into words a philosophy that’s probably been completely obvious to the generations before mine was a relief. A salve to my daughter’s heart which often wonders why my husband and I are doing what we’re doing and whether or not we’re doing the right thing.
I had, perhaps, forgotten the gap a grandfather can fill in a grandchild’s life. And this old-fashioned cowboy dad of mine… he is a grandfather to my own kids. The relationship between him and me is probably gonna be what it’s gonna be. But between him and his grandkids… well, that relationship is a seedling which I can shed some sunshine on.
© Tami Blake