Grandma’s Rocking Chairs

I attended the funeral of my second cousin on Sunday. It brought back many memories of when he would visit my Grandpa Harvey’s house. Frankie James Martin (Jan. 18, 1930 – Jan. 21, 2011) would often come visit his uncle on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It seemed there was always a crowd on grandma and grandpa’s porch in the summer or in the living room in the winter, watching a heated wrestling match. Since I was thirty years younger than Frankie I didn’t often sit around listening to the old men’s storytelling, but I sure did like watching wrestling with my grandpa. I can just hear him whooping, hollering and letting an occasional bad word fly. Most of the time in the summer I was outside jumping over grandma’s boxwood bushes and looking for four-leaf clovers in the yard.

It seemed grandma’s four wooden rockers were always full of company, their children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and neighbors. There was always time for one another, not so now. Take Frankie for instance… yes he was a second cousin, and thirty years older than me, but is that any excuse for not really knowing him? He would call me every once in a while to ask if I knew about this or that one in the family. The last time he called was several months ago. He’d lost his first cousins phone number. I gave him the number and we chatted for a while. He spoke of the loss he’d had in his life.

He and his wife, Louise never had children, so there was emptiness there. Then in 2001 he had to have one of his legs amputated. That barely slowed Frankie down. He went about his business like a champion. Then in 2005 he lost his other leg. With that leg he forfeited most of his independence. He told of the pain he was constantly in.

My sister and I spoke of Frankie the other day and she asked, “Did he go to church? I just hope he was okay.” Okay as in gone to heaven. Well Sunday at the funeral the preacher spoke of knowing Frankie for fifteen years. Frankie had told that preacher that he knew The Lord and was ready to get out of his suffering and go home. That was a tremendous comfort to me.

I never did much of anything for Frankie except talk to him on the phone. So as I pondered what to blog about this week I couldn’t get my cousin out of my mind. I hope you will all bear with me while I give Frankie this final farewell. With no children to remember him, I just wanted to put his name in print. He was a simple, hard working, good man who loved to talk, tinker and fix things. He was an employee of Elmore’s, in Elkin North Carolina for years. He didn’t have fancy things or live in a mansion; shucks at the end he didn’t even have any legs. Now when I think about him I can see him standing tall, or maybe sitting with his new toes dangling in the river of life. Then I see him mosey over to grandma and grandpa’s mansion and pull up a rocker and visit with them for a while.

As the years build and turn to decades I realize just how precious each day in someone’s life is. Whether it is a distant cousin or a new acquaintance. I know we are so busy with our own lives that we seldom have time to reach out to family in need, much less strangers. Wouldn’t it be great if we would resolve ourselves to sit on the porch for ten or fifteen minutes every day doing nothing? Maybe a friend or neighbor might stop by and chat. Or we just might find those few minutes alone have settled our mind and fed our soul. I still see rocking chairs out on neighbor’s porches, but they are empty. They sway in the wind, un-occupied. What good is a rocking chair without someone sitting in it?

I have all four of grandma’s rocking chairs, they still sit on the same porch they always have. As they tilt to and fro in the breeze they long for the old days when they were appreciated, loved and used. They miss the small talk, the tales, the laughing and fussing. They beckon… come sit with me and I will give you peace. I’ll introduce you to your neighbors, and cousins… I’ll help you enjoy the minute… I’ll bring you rest!

Every once in a while I’ll look out the window and one of those old rockers will be just a rockin’. If I close my eyes I can see my Grandma Verlie, one foot tapping the ground as the rocker tilts forward and the other one on the bottom spindle… and if I listen real closely I might just hear her humming one of her favorite tunes, “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes. She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes, she’ll be comin’ around the mountain, she’ll be comin’ around the mountain, she’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes. She’ll be driving six white horses…”

Ecclesiastes 7:1
“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lori Young January 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Sarah,
In 1996 Frankie Martin attended Tabernacle Baptist Church. My dad {Roger Childress] and Frankie used to do the yard and trim work for the church. We were like one big family. Frankie loved the Lord and had a great heart. After my dad and Frankies health started to fail they would talk on the phone. Dad is so saddened by this but is happy that Frankie can be in Heaven. We all cared about Frankie,Louise and Bobby very much. Thanks for writing about him he deserves to be recognized. Lori

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