Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Family I Left Behind

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
One thing about leaving an area to live in another is the family you leave behind.

It isn't my extended family of cousins. It isn't my mother, who plans to follow me to Iowa, or my sister, who decided to stay, and her children or my in-laws that I feel as though I am leaving behind.

It's the family that has left before me.

Some left many years ago. A couple were recent.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My grandpa, Willie Gant, died when I was three, but I have many memories of him. Although he was my mother's stepfather, Papaw Gant claimed me as his own. I was his birthday present, born on July 8th. He used to buy me presents or recondition toys he found in the junkyard. I still have the felt faced babydoll and red ceramic piggy bank. My fondest memory was when he lived outside Brandon, MS and when we went to visit, he would take me out to the chicken coop. He would open the door to the coop and in I would go to chase the chickens. With one eye on me and another on the trailer door, he let me play. Before my grandma could peek out the door, he had me back outside the coop throwing feed to the chickens. When grandma closed the door, back in I went. Papaw was the love of my life back then. About twenty years later, my grandma died. So many memories of watching baseballs games on television and betting on who would win: the Mets or the Cardinals or the Braves. Some many nights asleep on the couch listening to her conversations with my mom that lasted way into the night. Family games at the table during Thanksgiving. Watching her crochet blankets for the grandchildren to shopping with her after a doctor's visit, Grandma shared so many things in life with me. She taught me how to play rummy. She shared my love of animals. She taught me how to grow beautiful plants, although that quickly became a talent that was not mine.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
Although many of my cousins do not remember her, Aunt Jeanette was a woman who I thought was beautiful. Her smile was infectious. She loved my mother and often visited us while we lived in the country. Sometimes we went to visit her down in Ocean Springs, MS. It was there where I had my first dip in the ocean. I clung to my father, fearful that a shark was going to eat me (I was only four). At night I watch television while she and mom talked or watched her lamp and its mesmerizing raindrops. To this day I still look for a lamp like hers. She died when I was eight and life seemed to changed after that.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My Aunt Puddin was my mother's sister, Mary Jane Davis who married my dad's uncle, Steve McGregory. Yeah, imagine explaining that to people, a great uncle who was also my uncle. Throughout my life I spent days and nights with Aunt Puddin and Uncle Steve, playing with my cousins, sneaking down the hall and peering around the corners to watch movies we shouldn't have seen. My mom and Aunt Puddin fought during their childhood and sometimes while adults, but it made our small family seem larger. She was my beloved aunt and I can still hear her voice today. One of the reasons why I dedicated my last two chapters in my devotional (30 Days: A Devotional Memoir) to her.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
 This was a part of my life that taught me how to live. He taught me what it meant to be loved and how to love. Although the marriage was short-lived, the mark he left on everyone's heart lives forever. My boys emulate his teachings. Jimmy was a man of God who taught much more than earthly love, he showed the world how to love as God intended...with an open heart. As a fireman, he risked his life for others and he sacrificed without thought to protect those who needed him.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My dad, Gary Dennis Tutor, was more than just a dad or a husband or a brother or a son. He was the most amazing man alive. It was his love, never spoken but always shown, that kept me believing in dreams. He wanted the world for me, but to me Daddy was my world. I never wanted to disappoint him. I never wanted to be away from him. Even when I married, I was always just a hop and a skip away from him. I spent so much time around him that I grew to love the smell of motor oil and grease, the feel of sawdust, and the aroma of a newly built house. He wasn't popular or well known, but when he died the funereal home overflowed with people whose lives he touched. My dad was a simple country boy who would drop anything to help another. Life seems empty at times without him around. He taught us all so much and so many memories flood my mind that the pain of his passing sears into me; but even though I dream of him from time to time, I know that someday I will get to see him again.

As I leave the home and say goodbye to the house that my dad built from foundation up, I remember one thing. He built his dream: his family and his house. He would have wanted me to build my dream, too.

They left before me. They already said goodbye. I leave only their markers behind and look forward to a new day in a new land.

A life's journey to a dream....

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