“Paw Paw’s Truck” 12×12, oil on canvas, Bid Now SOLD
Drives a pick up truck.
Another 30 in 30 first: a story from a man! And it’s not just any man, it’s the handsome young fellow that’s been bringing me the flowers I talked about on Day 9.
Peter’s been in my life since November. Well, actually, since January 2006 but that’s a story for another day.
He’s a great friend to my son who can’t see a truck now without yelling “big truck,” “Pete’s big truck”. One of the first things you’ll notice about Peter is his big heart, his quiet way of doing little acts of kindness for the joy of doing them and never for recognition.
As someone who has known the joy of grandparents (particularly my grandmother Shirley) my entire life, I was surprised when Peter first told me he had no remaining grandparents. I had wanted so much to meet “his people”.
Peter wrote to me about the only grandparent he ever knew, his grandfather, Stephen Bellew Rodi. This post, then, is about two men. Peter writes:
“To me, Paw Paw was an immortal figure, always able to take care of himself and take care of those he loved. He drove himself his entire life, oftentimes scaring me to death when I accompanied him in the car, but capable nonetheless. He showed up at our house in Lakeview every Friday afternoon with groceries. Some Sundays brought the magic of donuts (insert Homer Simpson squeal). More than anything, he loved everyone in his life completely.”
Peter loves donuts in a way that isn’t normal, and I wonder if it was Paw Paw who first created this pastry devotion/obsession.
“What amazed me was the way he was able to keep tabs on his four children, their children, and their children’s children! This was a testament to his kind, loving, and giving heart. I didn’t fully understand how much non-family members loved Paw Paw until later on in life. He worked for Boy’s Hope in New Orleans for many years, and people in the community revered him…
At the end of my high school years, Paw Paw suffered a stroke in his home, and he was never truly the same again. He lived for another couple of years, but his time was mostly spent curled up in a bed, barely able to speak, and needing the help of a constant rotation of nurses and family members. The immortal man was reduced to one of us. A piece of me died when I realized he would never be the same again.
My mother loved him immensely, and she spent a large portion of those last two years of his life by his bedside. She helped him get a little better, but she was mostly just there to comfort him and support the man who had given us all so much his entire life. Many, many family members did the same for him.
I wasn’t as strong as my mother. I wasn’t as strong as my Uncle Mark. I wasn’t as brave as most people in my family. I only visited Paw Paw about fifteen or so times in those two years of suffering. If Paw Paw, the immortal man I perceived, was capable of being taken away, of dying slowly while the world moved on, what did that mean for my own existence? It scared me and paralyzed me in a tragically naive way.
I wish I could go back in time and give him the love he deserved. After all, he gave his love freely and with sincerity. Death is a frightening ruler of mortality, but it doesn’t hold dominion over the immortal, if you believe in such things…
I’m not in any hurry to leave the world’s stage; I love life and the thought of dying terrifies me still. But I do my best now to not let it consume me. Rather, I try to let death motivate me. I try to love like there is no tomorrow. That is a way of life I have adhered to even more after having Paw Paw in my life.
If this weren’t enough to fill my spirit and make me cherish him, he also left me enough money to buy my first vehicle (a truck) when I was a sophomore in college. Having the freedom to drive myself places was a life-changing moment for me, I can’t stress that enough. He has changed my world in life and in death. Paw Paw lives in me, and I hope I can be a fraction of the great man that he was.”
I, too, am grateful, not just for the truck, but for the “Paw Paw” I’ve never met but the one I see in Peter. This story reminds me so much of Day 1. I feel like I’ve met the goodness of people long gone in the kindnesses of those still living.
This painting isn’t of Peter’s truck; his is far more modern. This is the truck I pass almost daily, parked at a gas station in Madisonville. It never moves. I’ve been wanting to paint it for months, but today finally got around to it. I took pictures of it this morning and then got down to the hard work of painting. And since I can’t resist a good pun– maybe, just, maybe, I’ve turned a corner.
In honor of Paw Paw, this painting, too, is up all week for auction. Half the proceeds will be donated to Boys Hope/Girls Hope New Orleans.