Hi, I’m Your Grandson

19 10 2014

I must had been about 10 years old when I met him for the first time. He was sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch, but The Blogger 002it was obvious he was a tall man like all the males on my mother’s side of the family. I walked up on the porch with my Uncle Clyde and he introduced the two of us; “Dad, this is Myrtle’s boy Johnny, Johnny this is your Grandfather.” I’m not sure if he ever looked at me and I just stood frozen there in my tracks. I had heard so little about this man it was a surprise to find he still existed,and the hard look on his face did not make me want to get any closer. He must have felt the same way I guess because he never acknowledged that I was even there.

Back in 1942 John Thomas Laxton had lost his wife, Cosby, my grandmother to cancer. Of his three children the oldest had joined the Marines and fought in WW2. The two remaining had physical problems, the youngest son was crippled in one leg with polio, and his daughter, my mother, suffered from severe hearing loss. There are differing stories as to the whys, but after the death of Cosby, my uncle and mom were sent to live with relatives on my grandmother’s side of the family. My guess is Tom (as everyone knew him) felt he couldn’t take care of them the way they needed and believed this was best.

My mother became bitter to fact she was sent away from the only home she ever knew and it would be well over 30 years before the two would ever see each other again. During that time she seldom spoke of Tom and if she did it was never in love. Because of the ill feelings mom held on to, I never got to meet him until this day I found myself frozen in place there on his front porch. As I said, he didn’t acknowledge me anymore than I did him; perhaps neither of us knew exactly how to reach out to the other, I don’t know. It wasn’t long until the visit was over and we all piled back into the car and left, and as we drove away I tried to figure what just happened and why. Was that big man really my grandfather, and besides that, who was he exactly, what made him Tom Laxton? It just seemed weird to know so little about someone that I was a part of.

A number of years would pass before mom opened up and started talking about her dad. I came to find out he had a love for being outdoors, living off the land and even domesticating wild animals like woodchucks and raccoons as pets. Mom told me he loved to go off into the mountains by himself, just to think and be at peace with the serenity of the wilderness. “He did that because his grandmother was a Cherokee Indian and he had the same ways as they,” she would tell me. (I’ve thought about this often during the times I would go off and away from civilization like old Tom did.) As my beloved mother slowly opened up about her father, I believe a healing began to take place; she would smile as she remembered little things that made him special to her when she was young. One evening she told of a deep heartache, but not hers, her father’s. Tom had known confusion and rejection early in life also when he and his brother were sent to live with his uncle; as mom told it this was a wound he would carry in his heart for years. The more she spoke of Tom, the more I could see forgiveness was occurring in her, so much that she finally went to visit just a year later. It would be the last time they would ever be together, but still, it was good. As for me, well I was glad the two made peace, but I was at a place in life that I didn’t see a reason for me ever to seek the man out again; after all we may share the same bloodline, but were complete strangers otherwise.

When I got old enough to drive and had transportation, I started taking trips down to West Virginia from Ohio to visit family I was acquainted with and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Before one of those times, mom told me Tom, who was now well up in years, was in a nursing home in a town that I passed through on the way to my usual destination. When I passed through the area, I thought of the man, but still didn’t see a reason to stop and drove on. A few days later when I started back north I passed through the town again and the thought came, “What the heck!” Veering off at the first exit ramp, I turned around and headed back with the idea that I would spend a half hour looking for the place he’s suppose to be at and if I don’t find it, I’d head home. It might have been one of the easiest places I ever located, I simply turned on one road and there it was, the nursing that housed my granddaddy! Soon I was sitting in a room waiting as they had taken Tom for some testing. When they wheeled he and his bed back into the room he gave a glance my way, but nothing more in the way of acknowledgement. “Here we go again!” I thought, “This is going to be waste of time, but I’m here so I’ll give it my best shot.” After the attendants left the room I walked over to his bed and said, “Hi, I’m Johnny, your grandson, Myrtle’s boy.” This time was different than the first; he really was looking at me. “I can see that in your face, you favor her,” he replied. I wanted to do a cartwheel right there, this man, my grandfather was saying he knew who I was. Awesome!! I don’t remember what we talked about that day, mostly small talk I’m guessing, but it kept me smiling all the way back to Ohio.

On my next visit, I stopped to see him first before driving to where I usually went. Again I walked up and said, “I’m Johnny, your grandson.” He looked over at me and then straight up at the ceiling; “You’re not going to say that every time you come here are you? I know who you are.” That was like music to my ears! There was only one more visit and that time I took the gal who would become my wife to meet him also; he seemed to enjoy that. I had hoped that sometime we could have a really good talk and finally get to know each other, but that wasn’t to be; Tom passed away shortly after that last visit.

For some time I felt cheated, I guess, that I never got to know my grandfather like I wanted to, like others know theirs. I loved learning from others, especially ones I used to refer to as the “Old Guard,” people from my granddad’s era that had experienced so much and had incredible stories to tell. Fortunately, a few other family members filled in gaps to give me a better view of just who John Thomas Laxton was. Still something was missing, what is it that I can say I learned from this man? Then one night it hit me, we did have a connection, maybe not the best in the world’s eyes, but something that we shared and I could learn from. Tom was robbed of a father’s love because of some circumstance, just like his daughter was and just like me. I pondered that fact for a time and then I received a picture of him in his early days and he was smiling. Gramps had happiness that he just didn’t get the chance to share with a lot of people. I took all the knowledge I now had and used it as part of the way I wanted to be seen as a father and now grandfather. Not the negative, but the good, the happiness I could share with my children, grandchildren and family. With God’s help and the beautiful Lady He brought to share in my life, I determined I would always be there for my family and that they would always know how much I truly loved them. Here’s my one main point I want to get across, so pay attention; by God’s help, if I can break the mold that haunts or tears a family or individual down, anybody can! Get it? Great, let’s wrap it up now.

My Grandfather, another “Traveler of the Rock Road” had a lot to offer; I just don’t think he got the chance to share it during his lifetime. But I believe God still had a plan, that one day Tom’s legacy would be passed on in a more positive way than he could have ever imigined, I hope I’ve been a part of that.

This week my grandson played his last Pee-Wee football game. When it was over, I took his entire team to the concession stand and bought them candy bars. One boy who didn’t know asked, “Who’s paying for this?” My Blaine told him “My Grandpa.” “Wow, you’re lucky!” the boy responded. I smiled when I heard this, “Darn right, he’s lucky, he’s learning a great heritage to pass along, for he is the Great Great Grandson of John Thomas Laxton!”

Thank you Lord, and thank you Grandpa, this boy loves you!

See you again!


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