Monday, January 25, 2010

To Junior, -- Love, Samson

Grady Columbus Shaw, Jr.





Dear Uncle "Junior",

I suppose I must have been a husky baby. My parents said that was how I earned the nickname. At 5'8" I'm not now exactly the image that comes to the minds of others when you call, "Samson!"

Grady Columbus Shaw, Jr.

But "Samson" I have been for 62 years -- to you. And for not quite so long to my cousin Gordon, and "Mama Shaw", and Uncle James, Bill, Jack, and "Daddy Shaw". I really didn't even notice it much, I was so used to it growing up. A few months ago, when I walked across the parking lot at Gordon's funeral to greet you and Margaret through your driver's side window, I'm not sure your, "Hey there, Samson!" registered at first. The warmth registered. The genuine joy to see me registered. And that silly appellation helped communicate it.

Margaret, Danny, and Grady

Yesterday, only moments after I learned that Grady Columbus Shaw, Jr. had died, it struck me that I will on Earth never again hear that particular communication of love and joy. That all the members of that boisterous group of Shaw brothers, and their parents, are gone now.

And all by myself, I choked up. Silly, I guess.

You were never quite as merciless in your teasing of the oldest grandson as the wise-cracking Bill or Jack. You could tease, too, but always with an "aw, shucks" in your voice and a twinkle in your eye. You were unfailingly generous and kind. For your last few years you had that unsightly cancer on your face. At Gordon's funeral I noticed a little boy, maybe 7 or 8, watching you. Finally he could stand it no more and came right up to you asked, "What's wrong with your nose, mister?" You betrayed no discomfort at all, and replied in that same soft kind voice I've known all my life, "It's just a sore, son." The boy was satisfied and moved on. And so did you.

Grady Columbus Shaw, Jr. is fourth from the left in the front. He flew 20 missions in the Pacific during World War II as a nose bomber on a B24 Liberator. He was part of the 31st Bomb Squadron - Hofer Crew (Four Fan Fanny, Serial 44-41669).


My mother says that you were to her more brother than in-law since you were a young teen when she became the teenaged bride of your older brother. She says that she and you and Bill played together, and in a way, grew up together.

(l-r) James, Bil, and Grady (Junior) Shaw

I know that I loved seeing you even more in recent years, if for no other reason than the degree to which you recalled for me the voice, the carriage, the love of life, of my father whom I still ache for after almost 24 years.

So, Uncle Grady -- I've finally gotten used to that more respectful way to address you -- I won't pretend to know how these things work, but I hope that you are somewhere now with Charles, and James, and Bill, and Jack, and maybe Gordon -- all of you laughing your heads off, Bill almost snorting and choking at Jack's shenanigans. Maybe there are some fire crackers. Maybe cigarettes don't cause harm here. They ARE a handy way to light the fuses. Or maybe the Lord allows dogs, and you have Trouble, the Boston Terrier, to pester. Mama Shaw in apron, cooking a feast, fusses at you from the kitchen, probably, and Daddy Shaw responds with a grin, "Good Grannies, Lillian, (pronounce that 'Lil-yun') let the boys have fun. I swanie, it's about time!"

(l-r) Joan Shaw (Turrentine), Ruth Baird Shaw, Charles Shaw, Lillian Shaw (Mama Shaw ), Bill Shaw (making a face, of course), James Shaw, Margaret Shaw (partially hidden), Grady Shaw, Sr. (Daddy Shaw - foreground), Grady Shaw, Jr.

If that's the way it works, your brothers are a happy crew today.

But back here we're not feeling so hot. There are tears for our loss and a few regrets for phone calls and visits unmade. We will bury you on Wednesday near the earthly remains of Charles, James, Bill, Jack, Mama Shaw and Daddy Shaw. We will gather later to remember you at Avondale-Patillo United Methodist Church. Jim will preach. Others may say a few words. And I will sing "Amazing Grace", sadly aware that, although I will always be...

Your loving Nephew,

I will, on Earth, no longer be...

Samson

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