• 48°

Column: Three deaths, three remarkable men

By Sharon Randall

Scripps Howard News Service

My mother used to say that death comes in three’s. Actually, she said a lot of things that made me roll my eyes and snicker. But I suspect she’s the one laughing now.

I thought of that recently when, within days, the world — those of us they left behind — mourned the passing of three remarkable men, each loved and admired for different reasons: James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul;” Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, and my stepfather, a textile mill worker who married my mother when I was 4 years old.

Never until today could I have imagined using those three names in one sentence. You’d be hard pressed to find three men with less in common. No matter how we live, it seems, we’re all the same in death.

That’s another one of those eye-rolling things my mother used to say. Apparently, she’s still saying them through me.

When the phone rang the morning after New Year’s Day, I knew the news was bad. Good news never calls that early.

It was hardly unexpected. My stepfather had been ill for years. Lung cancer, kidney failure, and loneliness … you name it. Some said it was a wonder he lasted as long as he did.

It was no wonder to me. I knew how strong he was.

He was 24 when he met my mother. She was 28, divorced, the mother of two little girls and a blind baby boy.

I told him flat out at the start he would never be my daddy.

“Fair enough,” he said. But that never stopped him from treating me as his daughter.

For some reason, he decided to call me “Granny.” He said I was like an old woman, bossy and nosy. “Granny.” I hated it.

When I was 6 a hurricane blew into town and we were sent home from school early to take cover. I tried to hurry, but the wind kept lifting me off my feet. I thought I was a goner. Then I saw my stepfather coming like John Wayne to my rescue and I knew I was safe.

When I was 8 I got lost in the woods in the snow. Not only did he find me, he carried me home on his back, thawing my icy feet in his big hands.

When I was 9 he tried to teach me to swim by tossing me in Green River. For spite, I sank to the bottom and refused to surface. He had to jump in fully clothed, with his cigarettes in his pocket, to fish me out.

When I was 16, he caught me sneaking in late from a date (10 minutes past an 11 p.m. curfew) and he never told my mother.

When I brought my children from California to visit, he gave them nicknames and bought them fireworks and showed them off as his grandchildren.

Twelve years ago, when my mother died, I called from the hospital to tell him the news and, for the first time in my life, I heard him bawl like a branded calf. I wanted her to hear him.

There are other memories I could tell you and some that I would not. He worked too hard, drank too much and never learned to read. And every day, God bless him, for 42 years, my mother gave him the devil.

He was not the “Godfather of Soul” or the President of our country. But he tried to do right by my mother and her children. He was never my daddy, but I am proud to be his daughter.

Two days before he died, when I called to wish him happy New Year, he repeated what he’s often told me lately.

“I love you, Granny,” he said. “Tell the kids I love them, too. If I don’t see you again in this world, look for me in Heaven.”

It won’t be hard to find him. He’s a big man like John Wayne. And my mother will be giving him the devil.

* * *

Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077 or at randallbay@earthlink.net.

Comments

Comments closed.

Crime

Blotter: Feb. 26

Crime

Salisbury, Kannapolis men charged with soliciting sexual acts

News

Racial bias ‘deeply entrenched’ in report critical of Apex Police Department

Nation/World

US bombs facilities in Syria used by Iran-backed militia

Elections

City council again dismisses idea of adding new member, focus now on recommendation to delay elections

Business

‘Let’s make some money:’ Loosened restrictions praised by bar owners, baseball team

High School

Salisbury High bucks historical trend in dominant shutout of West Rowan

Enochville

Garage declared total loss after Enochville fire

Crime

Cooper, N.C. prison officials agree to release 3,500 inmates

Coronavirus

Two more COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan, six for the week

Crime

Blotter: Man brandishes AR-15, runs over motorcycle at Rockwell-area gas station

Crime

Salisbury man charged with exploitation of minor

Crime

Road rage incident results in assault charges

Local

Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed

Education

Faith Academy interviewing staff, preparing site for fall opening

News

Volunteers work around obstacles, alter procedures to offer free tax services to those in need

Education

Education shoutouts

Local

Retired Marine gets recognition for toy collection efforts

Local

March issue of Salisbury the Magazine is now available

Education

Five get Dunbar School Heritage Scholarships

Education

Education briefs: Salisbury Academy fourth-graders think big as inventors

Education

Bakari Sellers keynote speaker at Livingstone College Founder’s Day program

Nation/World

Biden aims to distribute masks to millions in ‘equity’ push

Nation/World

Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot