Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Louder Than Words

It became evident to me at a early age that the women of our family were the keepers of our family stories. They were the "safety deposit box" that held the history, events, life stories, and even the skeletons that had made us...well us! On the other hand, the males of the family shared very little.

Grandad Ewen was a soft spoken man. You could see in his eyes that he loved deeply. He would have to have learned how rearing a large family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. I do not remember a single family story that he shared with me growing up, but the hugs he gave freely and unconditionally.

I also do not remember a single family story that pap paw Jones shared with me growing up. But, this fact had a reason. He could not talk! Before I was old enough to remember him walking, talking, hugging, and gesturing with his hands, he had a stroke. The stroke left him paralyzed on his right side. His right arm was flexed at the elbow and his right hand was fixed in an awkward stiff looking position which would not seem to move. His right leg did not work either! To me he could make sounds, but I could not really understand the words he tried to express. I would stand beside his chair and often wonder what it would be like to live in a body that only half worked.

His days were spent sitting in "pap paws chair". It was a tan colored, leather chair with a side table. His crutches leaned against the wall on the left side of his chair which he would use to get to the bathroom and move to the large queen size bed to his right. He was also blind in his right eye, but that is another story. I would stand before him patting his left leg because he could not feel much in his right leg, and it was my way of letting him know I was there and saying hello. He would reach out with his left hand and pat me on the hand or arms, and I would do most, well all of the talking. Dad and I would come ever so often to cut pap paws hair. I would sit and watch dad move about the chair with scissors, razor, and comb as he would clip here, and clip there, and cut pap paws beautiful white hair. I was assigned the task of sweeping up around the chair after all was done. Dad and pap paw seem to talk well although I could not seem to understand most of what pap paw would say. But dad seemed to understand, and they would carry on a conversation that fill the very quite house with verbal music. Pap paw would laugh.

In all those 17 years I never saw pap paw appear mad, upset, angry, depressed, or even sad. I never heard him complain. What a man I thought, to live in a body that only half worked. It was his life that spoke to me, louder than any words.


  1. I really enjoyed reading these beautiful memories. I never had the privilege of meeting my grandfathers, as they both died before I was born, but I do know that all the men on my mother's side of the family were far quieter than the women were.

  2. I wonder if this had to do with our Celtic DNA. In Eastern KY, Scotish blood was pretty thick, and their linear discent was through the material side! My Jones fathers sure seemed to marry Scotish women. Ewen (MacEwen) and Monroe (Munro)[my grandmother Jones side] were about as Scotish as you could get.