Bill Cosby says that he was amazed at the transformation of his parents once they became grandparents. He would tell his children, "These are not the same parents I grew up with. These are old people who are trying to get into Heaven now!"
Billy Joe Martin went home today. He was special to many people for many different reasons. He was special to me because he was my grandfather.
Grandy, so-named by one of his grandsons, was born April 19, 1922. His father left home when he was two...leaving he and his mother to fend for themselves. He was only seven years old when the Great Depression began. As a result he grew up fast and learned hard lessons early in life. Things like the value of hard work; the importance of saving; the appreciation of simple things; and taking care of the ones you love.
He flew bombers during World War II, achieving the rank of Second Lieutenant. After the war he worked for General Dynamics, staying with the same company for thirty-eight years.
Some of my early memories of Grandy: Watching Satruday Night Wrestling and teaching me the importance of rooting for Fritz Von Erich and the other "good guys"; learning how to play pool on his old pool table; his old cigars sitting in big green ash trays.
Grandy was a simple man. He loved to eat -- steak (the Lowake Steak House near Ballinger was his all-time favorite), jalapenos (the hotter the better), and Mom's strawberry cake (which she made for his last birthday) were at the top of his list. In addition, his daily lunch break was the thing legends are made of...as each morning grandma would pack six sandwiches
in Grandy's lunch..and the fellas at work would crowd around to watch him eat it all.
Grandy loved to laugh. He was constantly armed with a snappy reply, a quick joke, or a funny story. I distinctly remember being 5-years old when Grandy told me some story about a chigger walking on a tree branch and breaking his kneecap. At the time I had no idea what a chigger or a kneecap was...and I didn't understand the point of the story. But I laughed just as hard I could...after all, it was Grandy telling the story so it had to be funny. There are other jokes that I could share, but my mother would get embarrassed.
I only saw him lose his temper once...and it was the time that my brother Jeff called him to tell him there was a burglar in the house. Grandy showed up ready for battle (armed with an old Colt 45 pistol)...only to find that the "burglar" was me playing a joke on my brothers. Grandy didn't think my joke was funny.
I only saw him cry three times -- the day he buried his son Rocky; the day he buried his mother, whom he had cared for as nobly as any son could; and the day of his 50th wedding anniversary...when he proudly proclaimed to his family as he gestured to his bride, "This is the best thing that ever happened to a guy like me."
Grandy's greatest joy was his family. I think if he had it his way he would prefer we didn't make such a big fuss over him. He hated being sick, and hated even more the fact that he needed others to help care for him. But that was because he cared so much about all of us, and he wouldn't want any of us to think of him as an inconvenience...which he wasn't.
He reveled in the accomplishments of his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. As a little boy I remember how much he used to enjoy taking the grandkids waterskiing. He would drive all over the state to watch his grandchildren play football games or compete in Karate tournaments. He loved going to see my cousin at the bank, busting through the doors asking to speak with the man in charge. He never grew tired of hearing stories about different places I was traveling, assuring me that one day I would be the CEO of a major corporation. If a grandfather is allowed to have a favorite, his was probably his only granddaughter Kim. And that's okay. Family was so important to Grandy that I think Thanksgiving was his favorite day of the year -- a day when all of his family was in one place together.
Of all the things Grandy did, his most valuable contribution is the legacy he created for his family. Grandy's life wasn't blessed with a father who nurtured him and taught him how to be a man. He grew up figuring things out for himself, trusting the lessons that life taught him. Graciously, God intervened and brought into his life a loving wife with a Godly family. For years my grandmother served as a spiritual example to her children and to her husband. It wasn't until later in life that Grandy confessed Jesus as his Lord and put Him on in baptism. Grandy quickly put his talents to work for the family of the Altamesa Church of Christ in Fort Worth. From running the sound during worship to fixing the often-broken-down Church vans, Grandy was content to be a servant working behind the scenes.
He was the kind of man you would be proud to say was your grandfather, but I'm most proud because I can truly say he was my grandfather.
And as I think back to the words of Bill Cosby...Grandy, if you were an old person trying to get into Heaven......mission accomplished!