You're Outta the Will!

by Ellen in


This is the line most heard by PawPaw. It doesn't matter what you've done, good or bad, it can constitute out-of-the-will-ness. I've always wondered if he means it if he says it. Is everyone in the will? Or is no one in the will? I think with 6 kids, their spouses, and 19 grandchildren, it has to be all or nothing, right? And I wonder how he has decided who gets what. Do the older kids get more stuff? Bigger stuff? Do the younger kids get little things? Has he divided his will by Estimated Family Income, so what you get depends on how much you already have? I have never known, and until just recently, I had never even thought that deeply about it, because I wouldn't know what was in PawPaw's will for a VERY long time. But it's the family joke, and now that there's been all of this suspense about who is and who isn't in the will, I want to know. The thing is: I will find out sooner than later.

PawPaw's pretty sick. You could say he is dying. Or you could say prayers that he would just GO ALREADY.

When I say things like that, I feel like it makes me sound insensitive. C'mon PawPaw, stop telling us we're mean women and just leave this place. We're not trying to hurt you, so please just go before that's all you can think about. We wouldn't want you to get to the pearly gates with a bad taste in your mouth.

However, if you knew PawPaw, you'd laugh, because he's the most matter-of-fact, straight up, tell it like it is kind of guy. He doesn't hide what he's thinking, and I've always known him to be this way. If he's mad at you, he tells you. If you do something dumb, he tells you that, too. He steals your food. He dupes you into thinking he's not stealing your food, with his second favorite line, "Look at the submarine." Yep, took me a good 10 years before I figured that one out (along with the fact that pigs can't actually fly, but that's another story.)

I love this man. He's a hard-ass, he's done a lot, he's lived a good 84 years. I wouldn't say he's the sweetest man on the earth. I'm as close to him as a girl can be to her grandfather who has 18 other grandchildren. But I AM his favorite. However, all other 18 grandchildren would probably say the same thing, because he's told us all that at one point or another.

And we all ARE his favorites. We're the only ones he's got, so we have to be. He loves my MawMaw, and still thinks she's so beautiful, even though he can't see her anymore and she's old (boy, do I hope I have her genes. She looks GOOD. At least I have her nose).

Since I've gotten older, I've started listening more to PawPaw. He likes to talk if you'll let him. In the past few years, he's told me things he says he hasn't told anyone in years, and that he likes to talking to me. Whenever he starts in on a long story, I am overwhelmed with feeling special and important. Every granddaughter likes to feel that her grandfather will tell her things he thinks only she should know, and for reasons she'll find out later in life.

During Thanksgiving this past year, I sat with him in the pair of recliners my parents have in their house. While everyone was gathered in the living room, he and I settled in next to each other. We didn't talk for awhile, but then out of nowhere, PawPaw asked if I was "looking for someone." Although he couldn't see it, I blushed and told him no, it wasn't at the top of my list at the current moment. He nodded, understanding, then launched into the story of the girl he met before MawMaw. Long story short, he met Shirley while he was stationed in the military, and she was in high school. He finished high school when he was 16, and joined the military when he was 18. He "courted" Shirley, and liked her enough. He told some more details, and said that she was pretty and a nice girl, but then he said he met Estelle. Estelle was everything he ever could have imagined himself spending 61 years with, and as soon as he knew that, he wrote Shirley and told her it was over. And he wonders why she never wrote back.

When he was about finished, MawMaw wandered over and sat down next to us. He smiled at her, even though he couldn't see her. She asked what we were talking about, and of course, I said, "PawPaw was just telling me about Shirley." She said, "Who?" and PawPaw rolled his eyes. I then announced to everyone else that PawPaw had another girlfriend before he had met MawMaw. Apparently, this was news to everyone. Because I come from a family of jokers, we all gave him a hard time about it and laughed accordingly. But there was this moment where I wanted to ask him, "why me? Why did he tell me this?" and he then he looked at me like he could see me.

Then, at Christmas, someone ELSE was asking me why I hadn't gotten married yet, and instead of answering honestly and directly, I asked if they had heard the Shirley story. For a good 10 minutes, everyone listened when I correctly recounted all the details of PawPaw's story of Shirley. And believe me, in my family, it's hard to get a minute where everyone is listening one person talk. But the Colemans were rapt with attention--none of them had ever heard this story before (which is another rarity). PawPaw was impressed that I had listened and gotten all the details right, and we made fun of him some more. I mean, he's made enough fun of all of us to bring us to our rawest state of humility, which is probably why none of us take ourselves too seriously.

Well, I am glad to be in this family. We are all really different and there are a lot of us, and none of us are afraid of who we are. Really. We are all really weird and fun and most of us have the same laugh. When we are together, we are sort of always picking on each other, drinking, eating crawfish, and hugging. It's what we do best, and it all started with the 2 of these people from New Orleans. So, here's to hoping that PawPaw hears a VERY loud AMEN from the chorus of our voices.

This is everyone, with MawMaw and PawPaw right there in the middle.

These are the things that will not be in PawPaw's obituary, but should.

Love ya, Gawgeous.

PawPaw died Thursday morning, April 15 at 2:45.