Monday, July 10, 2006

Where I come from...

A few years ago country artist Alan Jackson released a hit titled "Where I come from". Tonight, as I attempted to drift off to sleep, the lyrics of that song began to dance thru my head. An then the idea for a series of blog entries was born.....

Over the coming weeks, I will highlight one important person (family, friend, possibly foe) who has influenced my life in some way. I will begin this series with the man, who I knew for just a brief time, but whose legacy of love and faith impacts my life even today.

My paternal grandfather James Oliver Holton, Sr. was born in Appling County in 19** . His life was typical of the times - poor but proud. His father James Madison Holton was a sharecropper, his mother Mary Coombes Holton worked alongside her husband and raised their children.

Early in life, my grandfather learned about loss. His father, a part-time moonshiner, was killed when he was still a young boy. My grandfather would spend his formative years being raised by his older sister, brothers, and other family members. As was customary, my grandfather often dropped out of school to help bring in the crops, so he never completed his education. None of us are quite sure how far he got - his only comment on the topic was "I was in the 5th reader".

World War II came and Uncle Sam began to hound my grandfather. Being a somewhat reckless youth, he attempted to out run the draft papers. He moved between relatives, leaving Uncle Sam one step behind. Eventually, he did enlist and served his time as a cook in the Navy. Upon his return to Alma, he re-met my grandmother Ruby Taylor, and wed her in a small courthouse wedding.

Nine months later, the two welcomed my Aunt Pat into the world. A year later my father followed. And four years after, the family grew again with my Aunt Mary's birth. My grandfather provided for his family in a myriad of occupations. However, the one I most closely associate him with, is his employment with the local grocer.

My memories of my grandfather are somewhat vague - he passed away when I was but 6 years old. Yet, I have a distinct impression of the things he liked : Sanka coffee, cigarettes, and the Atlanta Braves.

I also remember him to be a quite man, reserved to a point, yet he was affectionate in his own manner. Some of my fondest memories are waiting by the door each afternoon for Gran-Gran to bring me my Coke and bag of chips. Something he did nearly everyday until his death.

He was also a man who valued knowledge. Due to his inability to finish school, he pushed my father and my Aunts to complete their education. And he found ways to learn beyond the traditional methods. He read the newspaper everyday - skipping words he didn't know or asking my father what they meant.

He was a honest man. The kind who shook your hand and looked you in the eye when he made a promise. He was a man so valued in his community that when he passed away, the church was full and people stood in a line outside to pay their respects.

Today his legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren. I like to think that my work ethic comes from him. My Granny says I have his eyes and some of his mannerisms. No matter what I inherited from him genetically, I know that the sacrifices he made in his lifetime have led to the blessings I have experienced in mine.