Grandfathers: Best friends and fishing partners

I started writing a Father’s Day column, but somehow in my mind, and with my fingers on the keys, I ended up with thoughts of my grandfathers, the two men that loved me without reserve, judgment, or ill will. Carl Henry Cannon and Marshal Eli Cole both loved me with wild abandon and made me know I was special to them. Every child needs that, and I was blessed to have it from two men that were as opposite as any two could have ever been. Granddaddy Cannon was fun and filled with mischief, and he laughed a lot. In fact, he laughed so much that his face had creases just from the smiles. Papa Cole was more severe and not quite so much fun, but was always there if I needed something. Some folks would say he was harsh, but I think of him as honest, hard working, and strict.

Granddaddy Cannon was my paternal grandfather, the father of my father who was killed in World War II in active duty for the U.S. Army. Some said he favored me because my dad had died in the war. I only knew as a young child that Granddaddy Cannon loved me very much, and that when we saw each other, both our eyes lit up and we laughed a lot. I also knew that Grandma Cannon did not like it when we messed up Granddaddy’s room at the back of the house. In fact, he had converted an old screen in porch and made it his own space, and it was comfortable and fun. We had our special chairs, his big and mine small, and we listened to baseball games on the old small radio with the knobs in front and took food into the room to eat.

Granddaddy smoked Camel cigarettes and sometimes a pipe and he always smelled of tobacco, but to me, it was a familiar smell and not frightening as a child. I later learned that it was not healthy, but it came with the territory for my grandfather. He also drank a little each night from a dark brown bottle, but that was fine with me, too. He had a very stressful job, I now know. He was a crew foreman, a union man, and a hard worker for Georgia Power Company. I remember to this day that his union number was IBEW No. 613 out of Atlanta, and that twice each year he and Grandmother took me to the union picnic held at Grant Park. One year, a character arrived in a bright red and black costume, and we later learned his name was Freddy Killowatt. Freddy was the mascot for the power company for a number of years. The men cooked all day long and the women visited around tables laden with good food. We had a big fish fry with coleslaw and french fries and lemonade made in great huge tubs with ice in them.

One night he came home very sad and for days he sat in his room and didn’t want to play or talk much. I learned from other members of the family that one of his men on a high-wire truck was killed in the midst of a terrible lightening storm, and my grandfather was very sad because he could not save him. Others said the accident could not have been avoided and that it was a freak one, but I know it hurt my grandfather’s heart very much.

Carl Cannon loved to fish and he went to the lake, stream, ocean or creek whenever he was off from work. I believe I gained my love of water from him. He also built a beautiful fishpond in his front yard, and I got to feed the big orange fish every evening with him. We both grew. He became older and more tired, and I became a young lady, married, had children and worked at a good job he had helped to secure for me. One night in a church service, the preacher asked if there were anyone in our lives that might not be going to Heaven. I immediately thought of my granddaddy. Family members had said that Granddaddy did not go to church with Grandmother and that he did not like preachers. God spoke to my heart and I went on Tuesday night to talk to him when he was 88 years old.

I sat on the little hassock at his feet and he sat in his chair. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it, and I was sure he could hear. I did not want to make him mad, but I had to ask him a very hard question. I said, “Granddaddy, have you ever made peace with Jesus? Do you know if you died soon that you would go to Heaven?” I thought I had angered him and was so fearful that he would yell at me and ask me to leave, but instead, tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his brown-leathered cheeks. And then he said, “No, Brendy, but I have been thinking about that lately.” I very simply shared the plan of salvation and asked him if he would pray and ask Jesus to be his Savior. He did in his own broken words, and I left that house that night knowing I had done what God had asked me to do in the church service.He never went to church or talked much about what we had shared, but I believe it was real and that he meant every word he prayed that night.

When Granddaddy died not long after, my heart hurt with the other family members, but not in the same way, for I knew that my precious caretaker was now in Heaven and that I would see him again someday. I also knew that he and my dad were together again and I kind of believe he might just be fishing at a wonderful pond waiting on us to get there to join them on the banks. And I’ll just bet he already has my line threaded through the little metal eyes and that the hook will be baited when I get there.

We wish all of our grandfathers a very Happy Father’s Day. We thank God for you and for your positive influences on our lives.