6/9/17

We Shall Never Surrender

My grandfather didn't die that day. After many blood transfusions, he made a miraculous recovery. I'm not sure if it wasn't his time, or if Howell Jones West had just made up his mind that he wasn't ready to go quite yet.

There was someone who hadn't had the chance to say goodbye yet, and I wonder now looking back if he was waiting on him.

Whatever it was, I was so thankful to have more time with him, no matter how limited that time. Even though he was suffering and in a great deal of pain, I wasn't ready to let him go.

And so after him nearly bleeding to death, I didn't miss a day seeing my grandfather. After leaving school everyday, it was the first place I went. Not knowing when it would be the last day, I never skipped a day again.

He was a little weaker than before this last hemorrhage.

Today, like everyday, he was sitting in the livingroom with the shades pulled up so he could see the pastures outside. Trapping a lifelong farmer indoors will kill him faster than any disease in existence. The news was on the TV but it was far too low for him to hear, but the subtitles were on.

He was always cocking his head to the left like it hurt him to move. He smiled when he saw me, raising his hand in a weak wave. I sat down in the chair that was always sitting on his right, his good side with the ear he could still partially hear out of.

"Hey PawPaw. How're you?" I spoke very loud. And he always turned his ear towards you when you were speaking.

"Ah... I'm a'right. I'm worried bout my cows though." He pointed out the window towards the pasture where the cows were grazing.

"They look alright to me, PawPaw."

"Your daddy been feedin em?" He cocked his head to look at me.

I laughed at him. "Yes, PawPaw."

He squinted his eyes a little at me, "Ah... I don't believe ya. They're lookin skinny."

I laughed again.

"You tell your daddy I said to feed em cows."

"Alright I will, PawPaw." I shook my head with a smile.

Temporarily appeased, he stared off at the TV. The news was covering the story of the hijacking of the cargo ship, Maerska Alabama, by Somalian pirates. It had been all over the news in the past week.

After a minute PawPaw pointed towards the TV. "Did ya hear what happened to the pirates?"

I hadn't, "No."

"The Navy pulled up on the pirates and the sailors all had their rifles aimed at the boat," PawPaw closed his good eye, like he was looking thru the lens of a rifle and looked at me with both hands up like he was aiming a gun. And then he jerked his arms a couple times like he was firing bullets. "They got em."

I laughed and raised my eyebrows. "Is that how it went?"

Pawpaw just smiled and went back to watching the TV.

We were silent for a few minutes, just watching the news on subtitles. And I remembered something I hadn't thought about in years. When Kim and I were kids PawPaw used to ask us, "Girls, ya know what Winston Churchill used to say?"

As young as four and two, I remember us rolling our eyes and saying "Yes, PawPaw!" All exasperated like because he asked us at least once every time we saw him.

He'd demand, "Well what'd he say?"

In unison we'd answer, "We shall never surrender," Rolling our eyes.

PawPaw would exaggerate his frown so that his eyebrows were touching. "Ah nah!" He'd say disgusted, "That's not what he said!" Shaking his head from side to side, he'd say, "He said, 'We shall nev'a... Surrend'a!'" With a fake British accent and with such conviction.

Because 'We shall never surrender' wasn't worth the breath if you weren't going to say it with a British accent and with some conviction.

We'd just laugh and appease him by saying, "We shall nev'a... Surrend'a!"

He'd smile and nod his head in approval.

And that's how it went, for so many years, Kim and I would always say it wrong just to see him get flustered and teach us just one more time how to say it the way Churchill did.

And so, I asked him loudly, breaking the silence, "PawPaw, what'd Winston Churchill used to say?"

He was silent and still for so long, I was sure he didn't hear me. But then he cocked his head to look at me with a faint smile, "We shall nev'a... Surrend'a!" He'd said it with that damn British accent and conviction that he always used to.

Like it was me who'd been administering the test this time, I just smiled and nodded.

"I'm gonna go find Nannie." I said and quickly headed for the kitchen.

It wasn't that I suddenly needed to find my grandmother, I just didn't want him to see me cry.

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