Great-grandpa John (whom the Airman is named for) was a striking Scot-Irish. Having only known him when age and time had taken its toll on him, he was still a handsome, tall, strong man with steel blue eyes and a slow, gentle, albeit rumbling voice. My dearest hope when I get to heaven is to hear him first saying, "Why, hey, hunnnney" in that dear way he had.
He married Ziphorah in early 1900 and they moved to the mountains of NC, buying 120 acres with a 150-year-old log house in which to start their family. Theirs was a completely contained farm with John or Ziphorah doing everything themselves from shoe making to logging.
The year 1920 was a tough one for them and money was more than tight. They had waited all year to go to town as they had nothing with which to purchase the few town good they needed. When the logs were sold, Grandpa was in high cotton as he carried around nearly $50 in cash money. That Sunday, when they went to church, Grandma reminded him that it was the day to contribute to the Preacher's salary. They attended a Primitive Baptist Church and, at this time, on a designated Sunday, everyone was expected to slip the Preacher a little money for his annual salary when shaking his hand.
Everyone lined up, eager to give their bit to their beloved Preacher. Grandma urged Grandpa to give as he always did, $5. Grandpa, though, was worried and didn't want to give that much. He and Grandma whispered their fight all the way through the line until it was Grandpa's turn. Hurriedly, he reached in his pocket and grabbed what he thought was $1 and shoved it in the Preacher's hand.
"Why, I don't know what to say, Brother," the Preacher exclaimed as he looked in his hand.
"It's been a hard year, Preacher," Grandpa explained.
"I know, but, Brother, do you think you can afford this?" and the Preacher held out a $20 bill.
Grandma's mouth fell open as she shoved Grandpa on through the line.
"You've blessed us mightily," she said as she continued to push the stunned John through the line. "God Bless You."
I can only imagine the words exchanged in the wagon on the way home. Grandpa never got over losing that $20, but I think that he was blessed for his unintentional gift. He lived a good life, dying just a few days before he was 100. God blessed him with health and memory until then. And he lived to see his first Great-Great-Grandson walk and talk.
I miss them both and can't wait to get to the other side where I know Ziphorah will be dancing and clapping her hands just as she did when we would visit and John will still be pondering how he ever gave the Preacher $20.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!