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Remembering my own special grandfather

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
In 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed the Proclamation designating the first Sunday following Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. Because this day is such an important one, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you about my grandfather.
"Pops," I called him. He was born Dec. 10, 1896. His name was William Gilbert Johnson.
He was short in stature. Out of all the things that I remember about him, I remember that there was a knot on the back of his neck. It looked like someone had cut a grapefruit in half and just stuck it on there.
I always marveled at that and found myself walking behind him many times staring at it. It must have not bothered him because I never heard him complain about it.
Pops was a World War I veteran and he ran a store in Somerville in the '30s before moving to Antioch Road. He was a cotton farmer, dairyman and merchant. He milked 20 cows by hand in the morning, picked cotton all day and milked the cows again before nightfall. I don't recall him ever getting in a hurry. Pops would shuffle his feet when he walked and he seemed to savor each moment as if it might be his last. I always wondered if he did that just so I could keep up with him.
I can't remember him ever scolding me except in the cotton field. The cotton had to be picked right. If you didn't pull all the cotton out of the boll, you left what was known as a "cowlick". Pops didn't like cowlicks. Cowlicks were money and money was hard to come by in the fifties.
In 1968, I enrolled at the University of Alabama. Pops loaned me $1,600 for tuition and board.
He was 72 years old at the time and he told me not to worry about paying him back because he was living on borrowed time. I believed him, so I paid him back the next year because I didn't want him to die with me owing him. He lived 30 more years after that.
After graduation, he told me how proud he was of me; I won't ever forget those words.
I never heard Pops say a bad word; cursing wasn't tolerated around him. Thinking back he might have had a right to say a few bad words and be bitter in his later years, but he never was. I saw the tears in his eyes when his grandson Melvin drowned at the age of 18, and I saw the sadness in his heart in 1990 when my mama died. He said the worst thing about growing old was watching your children die.
"Shouldn't be that way", he said, "God got it backwards with me". He saw five of his children buried before he died at the age of 102.
I learned so much from not only Pops, but from all four of my grandparents. I think of them often and appreciate the values they instilled in me.
Let's remember our grandparents and the sacrifices they made so that our lives could be better. As the Proclamation says, "Grandparents have the God given ability to reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations."

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