Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Pawpaw

My Pawpaw, Onnie Benjamin Cross, passed away on Monday, June 18th after a short illness. He was 92. He had fallen on the 9th and broken his hip, and had surgery on the 11th, but it was all to much for him. We had VBS that whole week, and my mom said there wasn't any reason to come yet, so I just prayed. On Sunday the 17th I decided I needed to go no matter what, so I booked a ticket for Monday morning and flew home. When I landed in Dallas for my layover and turned my phone back on, I got the news that he had passed in the middle of the night. It was really hard to hold myself together while still on the plane. He had been struggling with Alzheimer's for the last five years or more, so I was relieved in many ways that he was at home with his Savior and not struggling any more, but of course its hard to lose someone who has done so much for me.

A really strange thing happened on the Saturday before. Campbell asked me to get a bear out of his stuffed animal net in his room. He asked for this green bear that had a rattle in it. I about fainted. My Pawpaw gave Cooper that bear the first time he met him when he was just a newborn, and its been passed down from stuffed animal collection to the next. Campbell had no idea where that bear came from. But he carried it all over the house and slept with it for the next week.

My Pawpaw was brave. He served in the Marines for 4 years. I asked him one time why he chose the Marines over another branch of service and he said it was because he loved the uniforms more. He served with honor and dedication. He was stationed on the USS Phoenix on Dec. 7. 1941, anchored at Pearl Harbor. He didn't talk about it much, but it obviously was a life turning point for him because he had a clock in his living room for as long as I could remember set to the time the first bomb dropped. I did a report on him in school and I remember him telling me like it had just happened yesterday. When I think of how many men died that day and that my Pawpaw was unharmed I thank God for protecting him or my family wouldn't be here today. After getting his education at University of Texas, he spent the rest of his career working on Air Force bases as a civilian engineer. He loved the military.

My Pawpaw was generous. When I was little my grandparents would pay for me to go on trips with my aunt and uncle to see the world so I could fall in love with traveling like they did. When I turned 15, my Pawpaw gave me his car, an '82 Oldsmobile that I drove for the next 4 years, eventually having to staple the fabric ceiling back up, but it was a gift. I started college in it, but it didn't last long and died one weekend when I was home working. He loaned me his little gray station wagon for the weekend but when I tried to return it he told me to keep it. It was amazing how many people I could fit in that car through out college. When I started Seminary he generously paid my tuition so I could further my education.

My Pawpaw was gentle. He didn't talk a lot but when he did, we listened. He was quiet and calm. When I was sick as a child and my mom had to work, she would call my grandparents to come over and my Memaw always sent him. I realized later that was perfect because she would have been running around the house cooking, cleaning or talking on the phone. But he would just sit next to me and read his westerns. I remember feeling safe. I asked him to walk me down the aisle at my wedding and again, remember feeling so safe on his arm, but also laughing at how nervous he was to say his one line "Her family and I". 

My Pawpaw loved his family. When camcorders came out that was the best hobby for him. He came and filmed every soccer game my brother played, every recital I played or danced in, and every birthday party we ever had, even if it was embarrassing to us. Once a year or so he would come over and give us a box of VHS tapes, labeled and dated. He loved to make family trees and label every picture with names and dates. He loved when I brought the boys to see him. He was so proud to show his home off to them and show them off to his friends. He couldn't remember their names but I told him I couldn't get their names right half the time either.

My Pawpaw was funny. When I found out I was pregnant with my first boy, I had lunch with him and told him that I was going to name my son after him. He got a very scared look on his face and asked "What are you going to name him?" I said, "Benjamin Cooper." He smiled and said, "Oh good. Don't name that child Onnie. He'll get made fun of his whole life." When he started walking with a cane, he said he had it to beat the women off with. When people would ask him how he was doing, he would say "Well, I didn't see my name in the obituary this morning, so I got up." Even the nurses that met him in the hospital that last week, fell in love with his sweet, funny spirit.  

My Pawpaw was faithful. He was married to my Memaw for 43 years before she passed away in '87. And then married Margaret, and they were married for 24 years when he passed. And I can tell you, neither of them were the easiest to live with! Maybe that's why he was so quiet, gentle and calm.

My Pawpaw loved music! I didn't know that much growing up, but while at the Glen Retirement Center the last 5 years, he was known as the "Music Man" because he would play music on a little CD player in the common areas for the other residents. He took his job very seriously, changing out his CD's every hour. One time his CD player and CDs were stolen and he was devastated, could not understand how someone could do that. But he got another CD player and restocked his collection and kept going, this time locking them up at the end of the day. He loved to show my boys his CD player. He was so proud of it. I went through his collection the other day. I knew he loved Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and big bands, but I didn't realize he was a Kenny Rogers fan.

I could go on and on, but it feels good to introduce you to my Pawpaw. I will miss him so much. The last few years when I would go home to visit, when I left him, I always made sure I said a strong goodbye in case it was my last. I saw him last after Christmas, and am very content with my goodbye. It was a good one. We all did fine at the funeral, but at the graveside, a Marine played "Taps" while two more folded the flag on his coffin and gave it to my brother and that was very emotional. He would have been so proud of those handsome Marines there for him. I wish they could have met him. They would have fallen in love with him too.

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