This hasn’t been the best weekend. If it’s ok with you, I’m not going to talk Auburn football. I’ll be honest with you, I hurt pretty badly.
I lost my grandfather over the weekend. He was not your ordinary, run-of-the mill grandfather either. He was one of the most incredible men I’ve ever known. I’m not good with sharing my feelings, but Lord I loved that man.
What do you say about a guy who helped raise you, was there at all the important times and most of all, loved you like a son? He taught me to ride a bike and drive a car. And more importantly, he taught me right from wrong.
Along with my father, he passed on his love of Auburn. Some of my most cherished childhood memories were of watching Auburn football games on a small black-and-white television in the meat market of the mom-and-pop grocery store that he ran for more than 30 years.
I’ve been to literally hundreds of Auburn games in-person since, but none of them have been more enjoyable than those watched in the back of that grocery store in the 1970’s. I can still see it like it was yesterday.
I’d give anything to go back there now.
He was part of the Greatest Generation. As many of you know, they don’t make’em that way anymore. He was tough (and loving) as they come and had a work ethic that few can fathom today.
He joined the Navy to fight in World War II at just 17 years-old. He was a war hero, but never told anyone. I was married with children before I found the old newspaper clipping documenting his shooting down of two Japanese aircrafts headed directly for his ship.
He returned home from the war, started his family and his grocery business. For more than a quarter of a century, he opened the doors each morning at 7 a.m. and locked them each evening at 7 p.m. He did this six days a week, allowing himself to close early only on Wednesdays and all-day on Sunday.
By my calculations, that’s 65 hours a week for all of his working life. The few precious hours away from work were not spent resting, but rather with his children and grandchildren. I never once heard him complain.
What I’ll remember most is how much he cared for people. He gave away as many groceries as he sold in that little store. He gave store credit to customers he knew would never re-pay him. He couldn’t stand to see people go without.
As he lay in his hospital bed last week, barely able to eat his lunch, he was more concerned with the young nurse taking care of him and whether or not she’d had a lunch break. He insisted that she go eat before coming back to check on him.
His funeral won’t make front page news. His obituary will be among many others in the newspaper today. But rest assured his life was not ordinary. Even with 93 long years of life, there are a lot of people hurting today, still wishing for more.
I’ve been one lucky guy.
I love you Daddy Joe.
Tags: Auburn blogs, jay coulter, jody kelly, trackem tigers