"You're just a little Stokie, you know that?"
I can't tell you how many times my mama told me that. You can find in my testimony about how my dad left when I was one year old, and my mom moved me and her into her mom and dad's house. So as a young boy, it was my grandfather who wound up doing things that a father would do. He taught me how to throw a ball. He showed me how to use the carpentry tools that he loved to fool with, and from that I grew up with a love of working with wood. He was always doing something to make me laugh. He had a tattoo of a woman on his arm that would wiggle in suggestive places when he flexed his muscle. He taught me my first off color joke.
But he taught me some other things also. He taught me to love people no matter what. He was raised in an environment where people were "sympathetic" to the Klan, though at that time, the Klan were more of a moral police than a hatred group that they are known for now.
He had to leave school at the age of 7 to help his family work in the fields. He never learned to read until he married my grandmother and they attended church. He would follow along in his bible as the pastor read from his.
He believed in hard work. He ran the "dope wagon" in the textile mill just was just a few blocks over from the house. (if you don't know what the dope wagon did, google it, I'm sure it will be an eye opener.)
He also had mom or nana (my g-mother) read the bible and a devotional each day while we sat at the breakfast table before we started the day.
But the thing I remember most about him is how important people would come around and sit with him and talk. I've seen the owner of Greenwood Mills, SC Senate/House members and many pastors of large churches come to our house and sit and talk with him. I didn't really realize just how much he was respected until he passed away and there was so much security around because of all of the dignitaries that attended his funeral, and talked with the family afterwards. Any one he had ever come into contact with held him in high regard, and he never had a blemish on his name.
Me, on the other hand, did everything I could to ruin my name. Maybe out of rebellion, maybe out of ignorance, but I was the one who was always in trouble, especially once I got out of HS. It wasn't until years later that I realized what a terrible path I was on and decided to get my life together.
I have finally accomplished that, but it was a long road.
I still love to work with wood. I still love a good joke and a prank. And now I love Jesus as much as my grandfather did. And though I don't have all these important people beating down my door, I do find that people come to me for guidance now and counseling.
So finally, I am wondering, am I still a "little Stokie"? Have I obtained anything that nearly resembles him? I miss my grandfather dearly and I wish there was a way he could be around to counsel me now.
So my wish today is two-fold: I want to draw closer to Jesus and become more Christ-like, and I want to be more like Stokie, in that I can be a man who possibly makes a difference in the world.
So to my grandfather, whom I called Papa (Pah-Pah), if you can read this from heaven, just know that I miss you, I love you, and I can't wait to see you again one day!
In Memory of Stokie Lee Brown
3/1/11 - 1/15/80