Over 30 years ago I became acquainted with a song that has remained in my mind through the years. “Color Him Father.” This song reminds me of Cecil Miller. Cecil was MY grandfather. Period. And I called him PawPaw. He married my grandmother, Sadie Mae, when my Dad was a young boy. He raised Daddy and provided everything for him that a biological father would; a home, security, clothing, food, his first car…and love. I have never known the identity of Daddy’s biological father and more importantly, I’ve never needed to.
From the time I can remember him, PawPaw was my hero. He drove a station wagon and we would pile up in that car – me, Grandma, sometimes my sister Cindy and sometimes my cousin Angie Gaye, and head for weekend adventures. Most times it was to area back roads with creeks, streams and ponds for skimming stones to watch the water ripple. Or, to country stores along our way, one being White’s Wayside that has recently reopened here in rural Virginia. We would stop for a loaf of freshly made hot bread and a hunk of longhorn cheese. The cheese was warm and the flavor at its peak because I vividly remember it sitting out on the counter under a huge glass dome. We also got a little brown paper bag of treats…those pink, wintergreen flavored candies – I loved those things! Sometimes we would go to Lakeside in Roanoke, a little amusement park that drew its audience from area southwest Virginia cities and towns. PawPaw loved riding through the beautiful mountains of West Virginia and of course stopping at roadside vegetable stands for homegrown tomatoes. In the summer he loved to go to Shenandoah Acres for the day which was a fun lake not too far from home. The beach house had wooden floors that we were always cautioned to be careful of and not get a splinter in our foot. There were changing rooms with baskets to hold your clothes and inside showers to wash the day's sand away. There was a juke box inside and it played the hits of the day. I can smell sand, baby oil and grills with sizzling hot dogs hovering over everything. We never went far and we never stayed long, but those little rides are secured deeply in my heart.
PawPaw knew that I didn’t like riding the bus to school, so he picked me up and took me to school each morning on his way to work. One morning, when I was 15 he didn’t show up. I was so upset and just did catch the bus in time to make it to school. When I got home that afternoon, my Dad broke the sad, sad news to me that PawPaw had passed away suddenly during the night. We were both heartbroken. My Dad always called him Sam. To this day I don’t know why. He never had children of his own and my Dad was his only stepson. I have had people say to me before that he was not my “real” grandfather and I quickly correct them and remind them that Cecil Miller – PawPaw – WAS my grandfather and that’s all I ever needed to know. He was a kind and loving gentleman and he fills my mind with beautiful thoughts. I just heard this song last evening and I felt the void I’ve had for so many years. I’ve got to color this man love!
Dana Kingrey is a writer living in Michigan.