My Beloved Daughter,
You probably don’t remember him. But your Grandpa Chuck adored you.
George Charles Davis was born on March 6, 1942, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. His state of birth was a part of how we described him. Your Grandma Pat, a Southern woman, through and through, always referred to him as her “Yankee husband.” The funny thing is that I didn’t know what city he was born in until we were preparing for his funeral.
Your grandpa was married, before he met your grandma, to a woman named Lawanda. Actually, I’m not sure how to spell her name. What I remember most was that she was a red-headed woman who was quite pretty. My paternal grandmother still had Grandpa’s first wedding picture when I was a teenager. Grandpa once discussed his reason for divorcing her. He was convinced that she’d had an affair. I don’t really know. I do know that they never had children.
Grandma Pat was introduced to Grandpa Chuck by a mutual friend in the late 1960s. He took her out for a soda and asked her out on a real date that evening. She told him that she already had a date with a relatively well-known local singer named Terry Ray Bradley. So Grandpa kissed her. Grandma said it was the most amazing kiss that she’d ever received and she told him that she would go out with the first man to show up. Grandpa Chuck was there, bright and early. Terry stood her up.
Cousin Christie says that all of my older cousins, who were already born when he came into the picture, adored Grandpa Chuck. He had a way of making the kids all feel safe. He also had a way of encouraging hard work in those who knew him.
When he married Grandma Pat on July 17, 1970, he didn’t adopt your Uncle Greg and Uncle Kenny. After all, their dad (and her first husband) had the same last name. They were no relation. But your grandpa raised them as his own. And they loved him.
Five years later (March 2, 1975), I came along. My birthday’s four days before his and he had jokingly told your grandma that maybe I’d wait to be born on his birthday. The way she told him that she was in labor was simply, “Well, hon, he ain’t gonna wait for your birthday.” He wanted to get her right to the hospital that morning, but she knew that they wouldn’t let her smoke, so she waited until late that evening. I was born after 10 PM. Grandpa Chuck looked through the window at me in the room where they kept the newborns and I, apparently, started crying. “Son,” he said, “Daddy didn’t mean to make you cry.”
Over the years, Grandpa spent most of his time working. He was an interesting mixture of his parents. He was playful, like Grandpa Wes. He was not so affectionate, like Grandma Pauline. It absolutely vexed him that your Grandma and I weren’t ticklish. His replacement was playful pinching. He’d pull Grandma Pat’s big toe and I’d hear her playfully yell, “Jeffrey, your dad’s hurting me!” I knew he wouldn’t really do anything to hurt her, though. He adored her.
He would be gone on the boat for thirty days at a time, working on ammonia barges. He was supposed to be moved off of them after five years and into a different position. But he was so good at his job, they drug their feet in moving him until he had contracted emphysema working in the fumes. After the owner of the company that he worked for retired, the owner’s son took over. He and your Grandpa Chuck didn’t like each other and they trumped up an excuse to fire him after so many years of service.
Over the years, your Grandpa was in and out of the hospital for various reasons. The nurses at the ER in the hospital in Poplar Bluff had our address memorized. He had specific nurses who always welcomed him by name.
Through it all, as much as he loved your cousins, Jaimilee, Kody and Sarah, he wanted a direct descendant. He adored your mother and, since we got married on March 4, considered her his birthday present that year. After the wedding, any time that we would drive to Van Buren to visit my parents, he would ask your mom if she was pregnant. When she would say no, he would motion to my old bedroom and say, “Get back there and get busy.”
By the time you were born, his health was so bad that he had a hospital bed in the trailer where he lived with your Grandma Pat. His lungs had gotten so bad that he couldn’t walk three feet without resting. But he held out until he had seen you and, hopefully, left some memory of himself with you.
On a Wednesday afternoon in late September of 2006, you and I were watching a cartoon and you randomly looked at me and said, “Grandpa’s going home.” Later that evening, your mother, you and I went to Taco Bell for dinner. We came home to find out that he had passed away in the hospital that day. You, not quite three years of age, hugged me as I wept and told me, “It’s going to be okay, daddy.” I remember crying myself to sleep in the dining room floor that night.
As your Grandpa had always told us that he wanted to be buried with Grandma Pat, he was cremated . . . but not until after the funeral. In the casket, your country boy grandpa lay in his bib overalls. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
To give your mother and me a chance to mourn, your Grandma and Grandpa Lingle, along with your Uncle Terry and Uncle Steven, came down for the funeral and slept in a tent in my parents’ front yard.
I miss your Grandpa Chuck terribly. I sometimes find it unfair to see all of these people who are in their fifties and sixties who still have their fathers. But I’m so thankful for the thirty-one years that I did have with him. And I am definitely grateful for the ethic that he instilled within me. I don’t doubt that I was truly blessed by God with an amazing father.