The Times-Voice has requested some of us publish, online, the articles we have submitted for awards to keep a digital record of them and permit more than just our print readers to enjoy the work. This is an article I published in the newspaper the day after my precious granddaughter, Julia Bellamy, was born.
Her birthday is September 17 and she was born in 2019. She is nearly one and a half now. Wow, time sure flies.
How this submission didn't win first prize I cannot tell you. I still cry every time I read it.
I hope you like it...
To my precious Julia Bellamy, who was just born into the world, and to all of your grandchildren as well!
Julia, my sweat-heart, I have no idea how you will come to reference me. You can call me anything you want. I have been called lots of things, not all of them very flattering.
I knew a Granddaddy Long. His given name was “Fred” and I called him “Grand-daddy,” or just “Daddy” rather interchangeably. He lives in heaven now. You were living there before coming to grow in your mother’s tummy. I hope you got to meet him. Fred Long was one of a kind.
If you feel the amount of love from me, I felt growing up from him, then you will be a lucky, little girl. It doesn’t feel possible he could have loved me as much as I already love you; but, one day, I believe we may get to discuss it with him together.
I fear your Grand-daddy Long isn’t anywhere close to the man mine was. I am sorry for that. For you, I will continue to attempt to be the best man I am capable of being.
There are so many things I want to tell you as you come into the world. I don’t want to deceive you. Life is hard.
There will be times you will work really hard without notice or reward. Many people you want to believe are your friends won’t be. You will be betrayed and, often, by the people you would least expect.
You will be cheated; you will be unappreciated; you will be overlooked. You will be happy some days and indescribably sad others. There is nothing neither your two parents nor grandparents will be able to do to shield and protect you from hardship. Just know we would have given anything to do it had we been capable.
There is one lessen I would like to impart to you, if you will indulge your old granddaddy. I have no idea when you will read this. By the time you do, there may not be quail anymore.
I looked it up and at least three bird species vanished from the Earth during 2018 and it is estimated we are losing animals now between 1-10,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. You’ll come to learn, we’re right hard on a planet.
Anyway, my own dad and I used to hunt a bird called a “Bobwhite Quail,” or just “quail,” quite a bit when I was a kid. Quail-hunters were jokingly called hunting’s “light infantry” when I was young owing to the vast amounts of walking one would do in an all-day hunt.
We would get so far away from your great-granddad’s pickup truck I literally would have no idea where we were or in what direction we had to go. I couldn’t imagine hunting without my dad. I would have both surely and quickly been lost and probably left for dead miles down some remote fence row in some strange soybean field.
I have battled weight most my life, having been thin maybe seven of my fifty-one years (If you inherit this from me, I am sorry). My legs would rub together and my inner-thighs would chafe.
The condition was painful, made walking exceedingly unpleasant, and was referred to as “having the red leg.” There were times I found myself many miles from where we had unloaded the dogs, out in the middle of nowhere, completely galled (what happens when you really have the red leg), and so tired from both walking and carrying my shotgun over my shoulder that I believed I might fall over dead.
On one such occasion, I looked at my dad, your great-grandfather, and said “Dad, I don’t think I can make it back to the truck.” He told me, “just keep putting one foot in front of the other, son, and you’ll be back to the truck before you know it.”
Those words, of just putting one foot in front of the other until you find your way back to whatever place promises you solace, support, and comfort; took on significant importance to me as I got older. I would hear those same words when I experienced trouble, heart-break, pain, and loss.
I can’t tell you how many times in my life I figuratively (and seemingly literally) wondered where in the world I had parked that dang truck and from whence did I even unload and begin this journey in the first place? I have spent much of my life lost. You will too. It happens.
I don’t know in the future just what your figurative truck will be. It could be your home, your spouse’s embrace and society, or even your parents’ and grandparents’ bosoms, where you will always find love, comfort, and soothing for as long as the good Lord lets us stay here, for as long as our own “quail hunt” should continue, for so long as we are still searching for our own mode of transportation home. Naturally your grandmother and I, as well as your grandparents on your Bellamy-side, are much further down the fence-row then you.
Speaking for both the Bellamys and Longs, we hope we will get to see you dress up for your first dance, have your first crush, go on your first date, and feel like you’re in love for the first time. We hope to be there when you scrape your arm or when you feel like your heart has been broken. We both want you to win and want to be around to love you through every loss.
We don’t know how much of the journey the Lord will let us travel with you. Our own grandparents were equally worried about how we would ever hunt without them being able to guide us back home, to point out to us just from where we had begun, and how we were to reach safety, comfort, and relief.
Out of all the things we don’t know, there are things we do. We know you will make the world a brighter place for your having been in it. We know we will always try to guide you down the right fence and back to the comfort and safety of your own truck for so long as we are capable and here to do it. We know you being born has made everything we have ever before done infinitely more worthwhile and meaningful. Both sets of your grandparents, “Long” and “Bellamy,” believe there is a home to where we are all bound.
We hope to reach home before you. We hope you get there whenever you feel most ready. We will be there for you when you arrive. We will meet you there one day.
Until then, remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ll get back to the truck if you just keep moving forward. It seemed to work out just fine for Fred Long.