Charles D. McKinney, Jr. (April 28, 1917 – March 22, 2002)
Today I am missing my GrandDaddy. He passed away ten years ago. It had been a very cold week, but the sun was shining warm and bright the day we said goodbye to him. It was his heart. I like to think that it was because it was so full that it wore out faster than I would have liked. He would have enjoyed very much going to his own funeral so he could visit with all his friends. It seemed to me that every person who called Decatur, Georgia home was in attendance. He was a lifelong resident of the Atlanta suburb and knew every person within the city limits on a first name basis. He was known to many as Mr. Decatur. He was a true Southern gentleman with a subtle sense of humor and a hearty belly laugh. I remember he always smelled of shaving cream, like he had just come from the barber shop. He was a business man and owned a plumbing supply company downtown. When he wasn’t wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and tie, he was more than likely wearing one of his many pairs of coveralls. They each had a wide belt and a pocket for his thick, black eyeglasses case. I remember the kaching, kaching of the adding machine he used when working on the bills. This machine was heavier than a boat anchor. I loved to play with it. I remember how smooth the long handle was and how some of the numbers were red and others were black. He didn’t trust calculators and was suspicious in general of such technology. His was born in the house my great-grandfather built on South Candler Street. When he was a young boy, he ran barefoot along the fresh cement in the new sidewalk by the back garden. Though he got in lots of trouble I hear, those footprints were one of the landmarks of my youth. My father was born in the same house. I spent many Sunday afternoons rifling through the picture drawer in the living room. I delighted in taking the family pictures out one by one and having my grandparents tell their stories about when and where each one of them was taken. Everyone should have a picture drawer. I loved the secret passage between the kitchen pantry and the stairs, but it also spooked me a little. I always had to run through it when we played hide and seek, because if I stopped too long, the hairs on my arms stood up. My grandfather always called me Sugar Lump. When I recall his voice all these years later, that’s what I hear him saying. Hey there, Sugar Lump. When I was younger, he used to tease me by pretending to cut off my ponytail so he could keep it forever. He had strong hands and was often found standing behind family members at the dining room table rubbing their shoulders after a long day of celebrating. He loved to drive, but I always got carsick when he was behind the wheel. (Sometimes, he would run the heat in the middle of summer.) He was married to my grandmother for over 50 years. He was faithful and diligent and lovingly took care of her during her final years with Alzheimer’s. Ah, the memories. They all start flooding in once you open the door. I’m sad that he never got to meet my children, but I know he would be proud of his legacy. When I tucked the kids into bed tonight, I told them some of my favorite GrandDaddy stories and I showed them some pictures of him holding me when I was Mary Hazel’s age. The whole while we remembered him, he seemed so close. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll even have a dream about him tonight. Strangely, I dream about him when I’m facing a milestone or a time of uncertainty in my life. I always wake up feeling like we got to have a nice visit. I wanted my project today to remind me of him, but I struggled with what to do exactly. After thinking on it for a spell, I decided to do something traditional. Something we used to do before we blogged. I wrote some old-fashioned letters. The kind with stamps, that you actually mail to people. It’s not that my grandfather was known in particular for his correspondences, but he was definitely remembered as a people person. He loved to talk. He loved to visit. He loved to go to church, frequent the neighborhood restaurants, and piddle around town so he could catch up on all there was to catch up on. Today, I wanted to honor his memory by focusing on people I care about and just letting them know I was thinking about them. The old-fashioned way.