I remember when I was a kid, about 6, and I went to get the mail at my grandparents’ house. The envelope was addressed to “William F. Puryear.” I went inside and asked, who is William F. Puryear? I remember everyone laughing, because at age 6 I didn’t know my grandfather’s name. I had never heard his full name. Everyone I knew called him “Doc,” except family–we called him “Papa Doc.”
I have heard the story many times before, and even still I get the details confused as to how the name “Doc” came to be, because Papa Doc wasn’t a doctor. However, the story of how is not important to me as that of who he is.
Some of you know exactly why I am writing this blog right now. I normally don’t write blogs; Kelli is a lot more gifted in that area. But, for those of you who don’t know why I am writing, it is because I am almost 10,000 miles away, mourning the loss my Papa Doc. Right now in Dumas, Arkansas, Papa Doc’s funeral is taking place, and this is the hardest moment to be in Thailand, yet.
I haven’t been to many funerals in my life, which is a blessing. I have been to some when I was younger and had difficulties understanding all the emotions that come with losing someone you love. I still don’t understand. I have been to some funerals that were in support of others and their loss; I have been to funerals for babies and funerals of tragic loss. Funerals are always hard, but the joy amidst the loss of a full life are the stories. Papa Doc lived to be 83, and I can truly say he “lived.” I am sure there have been many stories over the last few days, and even stories being said right now; that is where it has been hard to not be around family as we celebrate Papa Doc’s life. So bear with me as I tell a few of my stories of Papa Doc. Most don’t have many details–which I find, sadly, is how most of my memories are–mixed with my lack of writing skill…but it is needed.
I remember wood working. Papa Doc loved to work with wood, and when I was younger that is what we did together: we made things. I still use the tie rack that we made; it is hanging up in my room in Sherwood. We made a few bird houses, candle holders, a jewelry box for my mom, cd racks for me; and I even got to help Papa Doc with some of his greatest creations–the church replicas he made for my mom and many others. But it was never about what we made; it was about the time together. I remember how we wore surgical masks to keep us from breathing in saw dust. I remember Papa Doc teaching me how to measure, use a straight edge, and logically think things through. I remember I was in-charge of the on/off switch on the table saw. It was for safety that I just moved the switch, but I didn’t care because I was spending time with Papa Doc, and I loved that no matter what we did.
Food was always a big part of part of Papa Doc’s life. I know food is a part of everyone’s life, but with Papa Doc it was different–he appreciated food. And Papa Doc taught me how to appreciate food, from the well stocked candy drawer to driving an hour and a half to a dirty little restaurant with a small, delicious menu. Papa Doc taught me how to like steak. I remember it was at the Colonial Steak House in Pine Bluff. It was just Papa Doc, Sherry & me. He taught me about the tenderloin and the sirloin, and how it worked well that Sherry and he liked different parts so they could share. He taught me about “au jus,” and we had some ordered to our table. I also remember trying crab legs for the first time; same restaurant, different time. We had Papa Doc’s birthday party there, where he proceeded to tell us he was retiring for real this time, which he had said many times before and still didn’t stop working. The food was always great, but it was so much more than food; it was time together and Papa Doc investing in me.
One of the specific memories I have with Papa Doc, I was really young and under 100 pounds. My mom’s side of the family all went white water rafting. I remember my weight because I had to be over 100 pounds to be able to go, and I was fortunately under that minimum. It was fortunate, though, because I got to spend that day with Papa Doc. I remember feeling left out and mad that I could not go with the family, but then Papa Doc took me out for the day. I felt like I got to do something special and everyone else got left out. I remember we went to one of those tourist traps where you buy a bag of dirt and you sift for gold or precious stones in it. He let me fall for the trap and probably paid a lot for those bags of dirt to sift through, but I loved it. We found some stones and a big chunk of fools gold, and I got to spend the day with Papa Doc because I was, fortunately, under weight.
There are so many memories and stories: fishing in a stocked lake, then scaling hundreds of fish when we return home. Going on trip to Gatlinburg and riding with just him in the old Blazer. Going to the club in Dumas, or the grocery store where he had a tab. Drinking Papa Doc cokes on the front porch at Hemlock Inn. Eating at that great Chinese restaurant in Levy, or going up to his office in Dumas to see where he worked. When he came to my wedding in Sherwood. Christmases in Dumas, vacations to Gatlinburg, and meeting in Pine Bluff or at Terrace on the Green.
Every time he introduced me to someone new, I was his “favorite grandson”–and his only grandson–but still I loved to hear it.
The memory that left the most impact on me wasn’t too long ago. It was my mom, Sherry, Papa Doc & I who went for lunch at a local fish fry restaurant in Dumas. I remember very clearly Papa Doc looking at me, saying that I was going to do great things. I had just started college, and I could see Papa Doc, someone I loved and respected so much, breathing purpose into me. I left that lunch believing that and feeling like Papa Doc believed in me.
The hard part about being in Thailand during this time of losing Papa Doc is that it is his example–how he raised my mom, that then trickled down into how my parents raised me–why I am in Thailand, trying to help others. Papa Doc’s example of living his life set an example for me to live my life. Papa Doc always supported me–both times I went to Swaziland, the first 3 month trip to Thailand, and now as we live here. We came to Thailand with his blessing.
Papa Doc was always helping people, and set a great example for me to live my life to fullest, to be like Christ, and to enjoy every minute. Papa Doc always quoted Mark Twain’s do-right rule, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” He lived his life following the this rule.
I thank the Lord I knew Papa Doc and got to see his example of living life, even as I sit here in Thailand in tears missing him.