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Thankful Grandson-Thankful Dad


As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and signs of Christmas are everywhere, a sense of jubilation is starting to fill the air, communities are putting up Christmas lights, and families are decorating trees. There is something genuinely blissful leading up to December 25th.


Dad disclosure moment: My children wanted to put Christmas decorations up in mid-November, and it happened; yard decorations went up this past weekend. I mean, I haven't even brined the turkey yet and our stockings are hung by the chimney with care.


As I look at the stockings with all of my children's names on them, I find myself thinking back to a refreshing encounter I had at the age of 9. I met this giggling middle-aged woman whose smile was so warm it would attack your stranger danger barrier as if it was led by Alexander "The Great" himself. Not to mention a 6 foot 4 behemoth of a man with somewhat of a raspy voice, whose hands would rival Kawhi Leonards.


With the smile that could melt butter, the woman echoed to me, "I am so happy to meet you, grandson." The behemoth with the raspy voice started to smile and said, "Yes, and I am your granddad. I have heard so much about you." If you're wondering what's going on, imagine a 9-year-old kid. Doris is the woman with the warm smile, and Eddie is the behemoth with the raspy voice. They are my future stepfather's parents.


I look up at Eddie with a timorous smile and Doris gives me this warm bear hug and says, "I want you to know I love you, grandson." I recall as I am being hugged thinking, "How can this be legal??? I already have two grandmothers and grandfathers. Some I am closer with than others; however, I have them. Ms. Doris seems to be a wonderful person who really likes giving hugs. However, I don't think I can call them Grandma and grandpa. What would my grandmother think if I called a third woman grandma?"





I've spent more Thanksgiving days with Grandma and Grandpa (Doris and Eddie) than with any of my biological grandparents. The very first Thanksgiving dinner I spent with them was incredible and filled with love. Unfortunately, we were a military family, so we moved around for the next 10 plus years. They were sure to call if they couldn't visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. If you know Grandma, she will bless the food via phone.


It wasn't until I was 19 and moved back into the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area that I could spend more time and holidays with them. I always did Christmas with my parents. Thanksgiving and July 4th were spent with the lady with the butter melting smile and the behemoth with the raspy voice. Incredible times, from 19 until I was in my mid 30's, I would spend just about every Thanksgiving at a loving home on Crystal Rock Lane.


Like clockwork, my grandmother would call me on Monday of Thanksgiving week. "Grandson, what time will you be over here? And your grandad is going to ask you to take him to the store to get his recipe." I know what that means, gin. My Grandfather loved a glass or two of gin around the holidays. "Don't you take him, you hear? I am starting your favorite (macaroni & cheese). What kind of cake would you like?"


Every year, my grandmother would spend 4 days cooking and baking. She would have 2 tables in the garage, one full of homemade pies and the other of cakes she baked. Inside the house, she would have mountains, and I do mean mountains, of food: Turkeys, Hams, Chicken, Stuffing, Macaroni & Cheese, Greens, Cornbread, Corn on the Cob, Cranberry Sauce, and more. She would always have styrofoam food containers for people to take a plate home. Grandma would have an open-door policy for Thanksgiving. If you didn't have family in the area; you were more than welcome at Grandma Doris'. O nly 3 rules must be followed; you have to bless your plate if you missed the initial one, no cursing, and no cigarette smoke in her home.


Kindness came in many different forms with my grandmother. If you were experiencing a challenging event in your life, she would try her best to lend a helping hand. She was quick to listen and defer judgment.


Friendships: This lady with the butter melting smile would befriend anyone. I have seen my Grandma build strong friendships with people who wouldn't think they had anything in common on the surface level. Engineers, Pilots, CFO's and more. This potent ability to build friendships brought about the most amazing grandaunt and granduncle the family could ask for, Cathy and Vytas Bitenas. They lived on the same street as my grandparents and became family.


Sense of Humor: While Grandma didn't intentionally try to make you laugh, the humorous events were there. One of my favorites was when she had to put her car in the shop, and the loaner car was a 2010 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Grandma wouldn't touch the car; she would ask my auntie or younger cousin (who mostly drove the loaner car around) to do any errands she may have needed. Then Sunday rolled around, and Grandma would not miss nor be late to church. She called Ma Maybelle and said, "Get dressed. I'll be over shortly to pick you up once I figure this thing out (meaning the car)." Grandma recalls that she took back roads and drove slowly. Once she got to Ma Maybelle's place, she couldn't use the back roads to get to church; she stated once they hit the main road and gave the car some gas, they took off. Grandma clenched the steering wheel and said, "Maybelle, hold onto your wig; we've entered a NASCAR event!"



Family as a whole: Maybe growing up in the tiny town of Thomaston, Alabama, helped her recognize that family belonging or just belonging is crucial to happiness and general satisfaction in life. Grandma would always tell us that growing up, her best friend didn't look like her and she didn't realize people would think of her as less than until the family moved. She was never treated differently by her best friend's parents. I believe this is why she strives to make anyone part of her family, part of her inner circle, part of her world.



As my family and I prepare for Thanksgiving, what leaps to mind has been how impactful that middle-aged lady with the warm butter melting smile has been on my life. Just through observation, she has shown me a new measure of kindness and that you can build lifelong friendships outside of your social circle. I am incredibly thankful for the instant love, acceptance, and sense of belonging that Doris and Eddie showed me. My grandfather passed away in 2010. I can almost feel him looking down with a glass of gin calling out in that raspy voice, “Grandson, did you just call your grandmother by her first name?” … “No sir, I typed it.” … lol



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5 Comments


You know my eyes are filled with tears. I miss her so much but you have brought joy to my heart writing about her. She is just as proud of you as I am. 💕

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Beautifully and thoughtfully shared, Larry!!! What wonderful, warm people. What blessings that they are your family.

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John Pinnow
John Pinnow
Dec 02, 2021

This is exactly what is all about. Wonderful story and I am glad you were blessed with her growing up.

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Eric Djeunique Hayman
Eric Djeunique Hayman
Nov 25, 2021

Really touching, especially around this time of the year! Great article


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Saul Speights Jr.
Saul Speights Jr.
Nov 25, 2021

Great article. Grandma Doris is a sweet soul.

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