Papaw, My Hearts Highest

Robert Bruce Newberry “Bob”
Born: 24 Feb 1909
Died: 24 Mar 1995

My Papaw has been gone 26 years. He died when I was 14 years old, one month to the day after his 86th birthday. He was known as a “good” man, “kind,” “well liked,” and “loved.” Narry a bad word have I ever heard spoken about Papaw, not one solitary negative comment or connotation. I have often said “if I could be thought of as half the person Papaw was I’d be doing great.” That’s the kind of legacy we all want to leave behind isn’t it? A legacy where we were loved and spoken favorably of even after our deaths for years to come.

Papaw treated me well, he loved me and I loved him. He and I were like peas and carrots, we simply got along with each other. He corrected me, but always in a kind and loving manner. He didn’t belittle me or make me feel less than if I made a mistake. He made me feel secure and happy. I sat on his lap even after I was too big to sit on his lap and Mamaw told me as much. Papaw didn’t care though, I was his girl, his “dololly” as he used to call me. I know he loved me as if I were his own.

Many people have said as much. They would say how Papaw cared for me and loved me. They could see what I could see, what I knew, that Papaw treasured me and I treasured him. I needed him so much, I still do. As I write this the tears begin to burn my eyes, my throat grows tight, my chest feels as if it would burst. All of that is evidence of love and longing. Of the need for genuine care and companionship that only a Daddy can offer.

Papaw was the only Daddy I would ever know and he was the very best. I believe, like others have said “if your Papaw had only lived you would have been taken care of.” I know this is true. He would have seen fit to make certain that the house that’s being torn apart right now as we speak would have been mine. I would have raised my son there, gardened there and built a happy, healthy life within its walls. The home I was raised in with he and Mamaw would have been a happy place for my boy, but sadly, life doesn’t give us rainbows and sunshine every day and there are hard and difficult truths that we must face. Mine, is the loss of every thing I loved and needed before I was 15 years old.

Papaw was a hardworking, dedicated citizen of our county and state. In this newspaper article you can see what was written about him when he ran for the office of Treasurer of Dickenson County for a second term and won. It states “in his race for Treasurer’s post he polled a total of 4,842 votes….(his) majority was 1,750, the highest ever recorded in the record books.” That was my Papaw to me as well, he was the highest of any in my hearts record book. Oh how I loved him and how he loved me and to know, to truly KNOW that I was loved and believe it wholeheartedly, if you have read my blogs you know this is significant. For me to BELIEVE in love, unwavering and steadfast is difficult. I only felt this kind of love with Papaw, with my Daddy.

I was a Papaw’s girl/Daddy’s girl, whatever you want to call it. I’m not ashamed to say this. It’s good for my heart to be reminded of this kind of love. Sadly, it was this love and bond that Papaw and I had that I believe fully made Mamaw all the more set against me. She could see and knew how much he cared for me and this was a direct opposition to her place in Papaw’s life. He belonged to her and when he died she told me as I stood crying and aching for him “you could never love him the way I did.” This was true and I told her as much. I said, in my 14 year old honesty and I feel this was wise for my age “you loved him like a husband, I loved him like a Dad and that’s two very different kinds of love.” However, Mamaw meant it differently, she truly meant that I couldn’t love him as much, but I could and dare I say more and without conditions?

You see I have come to realize through therapy that Mamaw must have been just as controlling, just as manipulative to get her way with Papaw as she was with anyone. The house was hers, everything in it trumpeted with a resounding “this is Delphia’s house.” All her valuables lined the shelves, where was Papaw? Where was his mark on the home? He built it and paid for it with his diligence and hard work. Mamaw reaped the benefits. I believe Papaw loved her, but I also believe she was very controlling and that control, whatever it may have been was deep.

I asked my therapist a question I had NEVER thought of in all my years of loving my Papaw. “Why didn’t he stop Mamaw from hurting me, could he not see?”

We talked about this in depth. I came to realize she must have been withholding something from him or using her narcissistic manipulation to control him. I think one reason Papaw loved me so much was because I loved him to purely. There was no conditions or manipulation between he and I, it was just honest love with no fault finding or stipulations. Papaw would buy me a candy bar and say “don’t tell your Mamaw.” Why?

Why did he feel it necessary to hide the fact that he gave me something? He bought me two necklaces, small, only the size a child could wear. I believe he did this to make certain Mamaw wouldn’t’ take them, if they were big enough to fit her neck she would have made them her own. Eventually those necklaces would disappear, just as with anything else ever given to me. I have a school picture where I’m wearing one of the beaded necklaces he bought for me. It was my third grade school picture. I was proud of what he gave me, though through the years it wouldn’t be a lot of things more than it was love and time.

I feel hurt for Papaw when I think of how Mamaw must have manipulated or controlled him. He was such a kind man I believe it was easier for him to give sway to her control than to fight her. It was useless to tell her anything, it never worked. Papaw always took me to church with him, Mamaw never went. Sometimes I think he took me with him not just to have me learn about the Lord, but to protect me from Mamaw. At least when I was with him at the church house I was surrounded by people who loved us both. I really felt that people cared deeply for he and I. Those days on Newberry Ridge where Papaw was raised or Clinchco at the Pentecostal Holiness congregations were special. I’d get up and sing when I was little, Papaw would too.

We had a bond that I’ll never forget and one I’ll always miss. If you have parents, love them, hold them close, pick up the phone and call them, go see them. Never refuse any gift they want to give you, even if you don’t like it. Just thank them and tell them you appreciate them thinking of you. When you don’t have this, you will long for it for always. You are blessed if you are loved and have parents who take your babies to their homes and cook you a bite to eat when you’re sick or just because they want to show they love you. Hold their hands, listen to their stories one more time and laugh, just give them what they gave you growing up, time, care and true love.

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