Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Celebration of a Quiet Life

Go with me to the mountains, deep in the mountains, the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky.  I'll take you there, to a holler with a creek runnin' through called Flat Creek.  Look around with me and find the highest place.  Though these old mountains were worn before men ever walked the hills, help me find the highest one.  Please be patient and climb that hill along side me.  Come on, I'll take you there.

Stand quiet now.  Breath in deep and smell the honeysuckle, the cedar and pine.  Breathe deep again and catch the thick sweet smell of sourwood bloomin' down below.  When the wind blows up the hill just right the fragrance is so amazin'.  Listen and you can hear the honeybees workin' the sourwood blossoms.

Look around, look down into the hollers at the old rugged cabins, so many deserted now.  Close your eyes and go back with me, nearly 87 years.  Come with me, I'll take you there.  Down yonder, just there, the cabin is gone now, but back then, a simple log cabin stood there, just a plain ol' mountain cabin with a dirt floor was there in that clear spot, there, just there, do you see?

The youngin's have been sent down the road to Aunt Dellie's for a while.  The midwife came just a while ago on an old red mule.  Grandpa Steve Hollen brushes down the old mule just to have something.  Till there comes a cry...

As I close my eyes, I imagine it was something like that, when my Daddy was born.  No one noticed much, beside family.  He was never a rich man, never bragged on himself, never made headlines.  He lived a simple and quiet life.

Today, seven years after his passin', I celebrate his quiet life.  In so many ways I am not like him, can never fill his shoes, but I am so much of him.  So much of who I am is due to that quiet life.

He wasn't able to finish school... went to war instead.  Sailor, Seabee, yet he never talked about those war years.  I just don't know about those years.

Home again, he found work, as many did, in a factory and worked as much as he could to support a wife and five years after their marriage, one son, then another.

I'm told when I would cry (and he had been out with cousins and friends) more than once he climbed into my crib and laid with me... I can only imagine.  When I had colic he and my Mom would get in the car nightly and drive around till I fell asleep.

I remember when Daddy and Mom came home with Brother Mike.  Daddy walked in the side door holding my little brother so very careful, his quiet smile so big, so proud he had two boys.  He had a gold tooth back then, said he got it while he was in the Navy.  It showed through when he grinned.  I wanted a gold tooth back then.

When I was 8, his life changed as he walked a church aisle, accepted Jesus as Lord and quietly served his God.  A few months later I followed his path down that same aisle.  In March of 1963, Daddy and I stepped into a chilly baptistry together. I was baptized first, then Daddy was baptized.  Oh my it was cold!  (Don't forget Baptists immerse completely... and the water heater was new and not connected yet on that cold March Sunday)

One by one, cousin, sister, old friends and family followed Daddy down that aisle.  Not because he was an evangelist, preacher or prophet.  He never proselytized.  He just lived a quiet life, a life changed to make him a better man.  He was happy and content.  They saw how he lived and, like me, I reckon they wanted some of what he found.

When Brother Mike and I had kids our quiet Daddy changed again.  For two ornery sons he often was stern.  He could just look at us and we would settle down.  But when the grand-babies  took hold of Pappy he was sweet and gentle.  He walked and rocked them in his arms, sang to them, looked deep into their souls and loved them as only a Grandpa can.

My Kelly would sit with him in his recliner and together them would watch cartoons for hours.  She claimed he loved watching the Smurfs... yet I remember the crossword book in his hands each time they sat watching cartoons.

I can still see them together, Pappy and Kelly watching cartoons, Pooh Bear safe in her arms.

Then cancer took him in just 41 days.  Oh my, just not enough time to say all I wanted to say.  Daddy never talked much, wasn't much on verbal expressions of love.  He lived a quiet life.  Most times through my life when I would say, "I love you Daddy", he would say, "Same here".  That was always enough, we knew he just found it hard to express himself like that.

Instead he worked hard, lived that quiet life, provided for us, quietly loved us, showed us how to live.

Yet in those 41 days, every time we said "I love you" he would say "I love you too".  As he hurt, as he suffered he told us each time that he loved us.  What a great man he was, what a great Daddy.

Today I celebrate the quiet, exemplary life of Jimmie Hollen, born 12/17/1924, died 5/15/2004.
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