Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grandfather's Day

G. Edwin Osborn, my
maternal grandfather,
I never met my father's father.  He died well before I was born, died when my father was still a young man.  I've seen a few pictures.  He was a hard-working man, an Oregon farmer (just across the line from Walla Walla, Washington), a man who fathered nearly a dozen children, taught them all to work hard, play hard, go to church, respect things you ought to respect, stand up for one another.  My father and his siblings were very close, even though they didn't see much of one another.  Most of them stayed out in the Northwest (the Walla Walla Valley is home still to myriads of Dyers), and my father headed for Oklahoma, Phillips University, and Prudence Osborn, my mother.

G. Edwin Osborn was her father.  I was fairly well along in school before I learned that the G stood for George, a name he abhorred.  I never heard anyone call him "George," and I had neither the courage nor the self-destructive stupidity to utter the name in his presence.  Not that I feared him physically--I never did.  All he had to do was look at me in that way, and Shame emerged from the shadows to slap me down.

Grandpa (he signed letters to us "G'pa") had the Lord on his side, and we knew it.  He was an ordained minister (Disciples of Christ).  After preaching in Virginia, West Virginia, Arizona, and elsewhere, he ended up back in Enid, at Phillips (his alma mater), teaching there in the College of the Bible.  He took his family to Scotland, where he earned his Ph.D. in Theology, then returned to Enid until he retired.

Grandpa was also an author of many articles and several books on religious subjects, including The Glory of Christian Worship (1960).  I just opened my copy for the first time in more than a half-century (I know: shame on me) and saw that Grandpa had inscribed a copy for my sixteenth birthday, "the day," he wrote, "that marks the transition from Boy to Man.  To understand better the Unseen Resources needed and available in making that transition I hope you find this little book helpful.  G'pa."

[Pause to clear my eyes.]

But the great achievement of his professional life was the publication of Christian Worship: A Service Book (1953, 1958), the book that became the standard service book for Disciples ministers all over the country.  He spent a dozen years working on it, and when I graduated from high school in 1962, he gave me an inscribed copy.  At that point, I think Grandpa had hopes for me--hopes that I would follow in his footsteps, in the footsteps of his son, Ronald (who also became a respected minister and seminarian).  And for a while--in college--I flirted with the notion, but then, like my father, drifted into teaching, where I found a career that I would love for forty-five years.

Grandma and Grandpa visited us a few times in Hiram, and one of the great shames of my life occurred over the Christmas holidays, 1963.  I had just finished my first term of my sophomore year at Hiram College, and some high school friends were home on break.  We got together one night.  In a bar.  I drank too much.  And when I came home that night (morning, really), I became very noisily sick upstairs--right next door to my grandparents' room.  Among the lows of my life, that is right there with the lowest.

Grandpa did not say a word about it the next morning, not to me.  But he did look at me with that look that summoned Shame, who has flogged me about that incident for a half-century.

Grandpa was born in Jackson, Ohio, on April 17, 1897; he retired in 1964; he and his wife, Alma, moved to the Lenoir Christian Home in Columbia, Missouri, where he died in late September 1965.  I am very nearly his age now.  The family drove out to Columbia for the funeral (I was still in college), and when I walked into their cottage, which was overflowing with friends, my grandmother, saw me and cried out, "And here's the one with the Osborn name."  At the funeral, the service came directly from his service book.  We sang "O God Our Help" and I wept after the first three words and was not able to sing many words thereafter.  And wondered how it could possibly be that the order of service that day in the First Christian Church, Columbia, Missouri, could spell his last name Osborne.

A month and a half later, my birthday, November 11, 1965.  A card from my grandmother.  A little girl on the cover says: "Your BIRTHDAY?  How charming!  How gracious!"  Open card: "How fascinating!  How attractive!  How talented!"  Open another layer: "How OLD?"  On the back of the card was a note from Grandma: "Dear Dan, Your g'pa selected this card for you, & had 'your mark' on the corner of the envelope.  See!  (Well, perhaps you can if the P. O. stamp doesn't cover it.)  He thought you were a great guy--& so do I."  And, yes, just beside the stamp, in G'pa's hand, the penciled word "Dan."

Grandpa Osborn was a wonderful grandfather--supporting all three grandsons in their interests.  He listened to opera with little Dickie (and fostered what would become a life-long interest); he went to see Davi and me play baseball.  During our Enid years, we were never far away.  During WW II, we lived upstairs at their house at 1609 E. Broadway.  Afterwards, we moved down the block to 1709 E. Broadway, and still later we bought our first house at 1706 E. Elm, just a few blocks north.  We were always at Grandpa's house.  A safe place.  I still remember their phone number.  I'd pick up the phone, hear the operator say "Number, please," and say "5630-J."  And the phone would ring, and one of those two wonderful people would answer.

Grandpa had a great sense of humor (his laugh was of the hee-hee-HEE variety) and adored my grandmother.  He was always touching her, hugging her, sitting beside her on the couch with his arm around her.  I thought it was a miracle.  And it was.  He chewed Chiclets, polished his shoes ever day, kept his desk in his study so organized that I am reeling with Shame as I look around my mess of a room.  I loved his study.  Books neatly on shelves.  A full standing wooden console radio (where he listened to opera with Richard, baseball and boxing matches with me).  Once, I opened his main desk drawer and saw all his office supplies neatly arranged--paper clips all lined up the same way.

Grandpa's chair; my mess.
I am sitting right now in his desk chair, the chair where he wrote his books, his letters, his lessons, his sermons.  And across the room, on a shelf, is the photograph that sits at the top of this page.

I think about Grandpa every day--miss him horribly--miss his laugh, his wry humor, his wisdom.  And I wonder how a man could be so good; I wish I ...

But don't we all wish we'd somehow lived up to the expectations of those whom we love and admire the most?

And so I sit in his chair and work in the warmth of his gaze and his smile.  And that will have to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment