Today we buried my granddaddy. He was a true patriarch, and he was one of those people I always thought was invincible. I know he had to go, and I know he is in a much better place, but it’s still really hard. As I sat at the funeral and read his obituary and listened to people reflect on their interactions with him, I really reflected on how much he has influenced my family.
My granddaddy, Will Henry (W.H.) Robinson, Jr., was a really kind man who loved to help people. And he was very aware of his community and his family. He was a role model to us, but to so many other people too. He was a hands-on grandfather, and each of us grandkids thought we had the sweetest sugar in the world. I think one of the things that makes me most sad is that my future kids won’t get to play his version of patty cake or to know what it’s like running up the path to his seat in the front yard to slap him with some sugar. And I’m the last one of his granddaughters without my own family, so he won’t be able to see me in the gown or have “the talk” with my future hubby. My grandparents had been married for 61 years, and they still looked at each other with googly eyes like it was still 1948. My grandma was my granddaddy’s china doll, and he showed us all how a man should treat his wife and provided a frame of reference for a successful marriage even when our own parents’ marriages were failing. I pray that I’ll end up in a happy, loving marriage with a husband who looks at me like I’m his world even when we hit our 80s.
What I see in myself, though, is my granddaddy’s love for community, which was passed down through my daddy and drilled in by my mom. My granddaddy was a true pillar. He was a historian, and he used his knowledge of the city, and particularly the western part of it, to help people. He did a lot on his own, donating fruit to kids every Christmas, organizing the first black golf club to be chartered in the state, managing and coaching a semi-pro baseball team (Homestead Greys), and also with his Masonic Lodge and his church. He knew public officials and other influential people in the city, but like the pastor who gave the eulogy today said, they knew him. And my granddaddy used his contacts to make a difference. Most of all, he was an entrepreneur, and he was a real life example of economic empowerment. In 1957, my granddaddy opened Robinson Shoe Shop and used it as a means of livelihood and as a means of blessing others. Working miracles with old and beat up shoes, he was an upstanding businessman who handed down the trade and the ability to work with people to his sons. I’ve never in my life heard anyone accuse my granddaddy of shady business practices. And he had customers of all colors. I’ve always said that economic empowerment requires getting people outside your particular community to spend and leave their money in it to create some community circulation of dollars. Well, guess who I had to learn that from.
So now, I will cherish the rest of my family. I will do a better job of checking on my grandma and my other grandfather. I can’t imagine what my grandma is going through after losing the love of her life. I used to write her letters because she loves to read (who does that sound like lol), so I will definitely start back writing her just to make sure she knows how much I love her and think about her. I’d actually like to write a family history book, so maybe I’ll get her to help me with that. And I’ll definitely keep working on being the type of person that my granddaddy was and that he’d be proud to see.
I’ve always been the quiet, reserved one who was protected by the rest of my cousins. (Hey, I’m the youngest granddaughter.) But I need to step up and integrate all the stuff I’ve come to love doing as an adult on my own with my family life. I love traveling, so I plan to take some trips so I can really get to know some relatives who are a little distant (like my granddaddy’s niece and her kids or my grandma’s brothers). I love community development, so I will continue to be vested in my hometown and what’s going on with Robinson Shoe Shop (which was reopened in 2002 by my daddy and my uncle Teddy). I will try to think of my granddaddy’s death as a charge to accept a promotion to a higher post with greater responsibility in family. I’m no longer just a little cousin. I have tons of little cousins who are now who my cousins and I used to be. It’s the progression of life, I suppose, and through my tears and after they’ve dried up, I will use my granddaddy’s memory as an inspiration.