“Bee”ing my Grandfather

Posted by

This post is different from my last few. I usually write about God and try to teach a little about Christian principles. This one is simply a narrative, very personal and meaningful to me, but it is with the purpose of showing how God acted in my life to make things happen. The story at the end just wraps it all up nicely. It is long, but it is worth it, in my humble opinion. Enjoy! P.S. The “Bee”-ing in the title is intentional, you have to read to the end to find out why.

Many of you know my grandfather William died last week. A few people know the story about him but there are far many others who do not. So, today, I am telling the story in full, for the first time, so that everyone knows why I only knew him for such a short time, and how I truly believe it was God’s intent that it happened the exact way it did.

My father was born in 1957, to Betty Jean (my granny), a woman I greatly admire and respect even though she is no longer on this earth. I loved my granny deeply. She wasn’t perfect, as you’ll see, but neither are you nor I, and she loved me unconditionally. She was a kind woman who never let me forget she loved me. I can’t say the same about others in my very large family (all sides included) but I can definitely say that about her. At the time of my father’s conception, my granny was married to a man who was terminally ill and bedridden. He died just a few weeks before my father was born. His family wanted nothing to do with my father after he died. My dad’s older sister was their favorite. They would take her for the weekends, buy her Christmas and birthday presents, and treated her just like a grandchild. They never did so with my dad. He grew up wondering why his grandparents treated him that way, and probably being a little jealous that his sister got all the attention from them while he never was acknowledged. I know I would have been!! He has admitted to me that his feelings were hurt when he was a kid, because he just couldn’t understand why they acted that way.

As I grew older, I thought about this a lot and wondered the same. I had a step-family myself (my step-father’s family) who always treated me as part of the family. My grandparents (notice I say grandparents and not step-grandparents…that should tell you how I feel about them) never treated me any differently than the other natural born grandchildren. I was always referred to as a grandchild and always treated like one. I saw no favoritism in the family, and never felt like I was an outsider. So, I couldn’t understand why my dad’s biological family had done him that way. As a young adult of about 18, I remember once thinking it would have made sense they treated him that way if he wasn’t their son’s son…but he was, right? I mean my granny was married to him. I learned a few things over the years about his parents. His mother poisoned my granny’s dog and killed it. She actually even poisoned my granny herself, WHILE she was pregnant with my father, to try and get her to miscarry. What kind of person would do that to her own flesh and blood? It got me thinking….and I started asking questions. I talked to my dad’s younger sister (born of my granny’s later marriage) and she told me she thought that my granny had been unfaithful to her husband while he was sick, and that my dad was the product of that affair. She said she wasn’t sure, it was just a sneaking thought she’d had, but didn’t want to make any accusations or discuss it anymore. My granny was still alive and she didn’t want to cause her any trouble. We didn’t speak about it again until probably 10 years after my granny died, in around 2015. I approached her about it again and this time, she told me it was true. My granny had confessed it to her before she died, gave her a name, and a few details about him. Of course I wanted to know details but she told me to discuss that with my dad, that it was his story and he could tell me if he wanted me to know. So, I asked him.

He said he’d talked to a woman who lived in Mississippi, who was a friend of my granny and of the man who was likely my grandfather. She confirmed the name my granny had given, and told us he had curly hair, and had the nickname Curly because of it. My dad and I both have curly hair, as well as one of my children. So, that was where we got it. I remembered my granny telling me when I was little that our curly hair came from my dad’s father…but as I saw pictures of her husband, I noticed he never had curly hair. Being a kid, I never put 2 and 2 together….until then. His father had been a friend or brother of a neighbor and that’s how they met. We never got any specific details of how long they saw each other or how long it lasted. The woman told us that he knew my dad existed, he had been there and visited with him at least once, but as far as she knew, that was the only time he’d ever seen him. Eventually my granny moved from that neighborhood and never saw him again.

Suddenly, it all made sense. Her husband’s parents were so angry with her, that they tried to kill her and my father. They refused to have anything to do with my father because he wasn’t their son’s child……it all fell into place. It was horrible, but it made sense. So, in 2015-ish, armed with only a name and an approximate location (the Mississippi lady told us he’d lived in Florida at one time), I began to search. I didn’t know his age, where he was born, where he lived….nothing. Suffice to say, I didn’t search for long because I just didn’t have enough information to use. Do you know just how many Williams exist in this country? Hint: too many to count. I went through old phonebook/address records from the year of my father’s birth and the year before, to try and match the last name to others living in that neighborhood. Nothing. I then searched Florida census records and address/phone records for that time, and I found a few matches, but nothing concrete. I got frustrated and gave up.

In 2016, I decided to take an Ancestry DNA test, to see if I could get anything from that. My dad and his older sister agreed to take them as well, so I bought the tests and we all took them. When the results came back, I was shocked. I knew that they were half siblings, but when the test confirmed it, it sank in that it was really true. I felt like my whole life had been a lie. I had the name of someone who I wasn’t related to, whose parents tried to kill my father!!! I know it sounds dramatic, but I was confused and didn’t even know who I was. At that time, I had always thought that adopted people shouldn’t search for their parents, because the parents who raised them, WERE their parents. I didn’t judge anyone, but I thought, “Why do you want to search for someone who gave you away?” I didn’t get it. Until I did. After my freak out and mini-identity crisis, I threw myself back into research. It became an obsession.

I had been placed into a DNA group for an ancestral couple named John Robertson and Susan Ragan. I had multiple matches to people descended from their children. However, that still told me absolutely nothing. I began to meticulously research each of their 6 known children, all males. I dedicated so many hours to researching their individual lines. I had a list for each of the 6 sons, a list of their marriages, a list of their children (grandchildren of John and Susan). Then I made the same type of list for each of those grandchildren and their children…and so on. Hours and hours and pages and pages of people. I still came up empty handed. I could not find my grandfather’s last name anywhere in that line, not even one daughter who married into that name. Nothing. It took me months and months to get to that point and I was beyond frustrated by that time. One day a DNA match popped up, a living female with the last name Robertson. Per the DNA percentages, she was estimated to be one of the following: 2nd cousin, 1st cousin 2x removed, Half 1st cousin 1x removed, Half great-grandaunt. Well, how nice. That REALLY narrowed it down! So, I contacted her and got the names of her parents. Her father was a Robertson but her mother was not, and all my matches were from Robertson lines, so I did some minor research on her mother’s lines but never really could find a connection there. I got into contact with her again, and her daughter, to discuss it. I knew the connection had to be from her father, but just didn’t know how. So, I began to go backwards from him, thinking it had to be one of his brothers or their children. I knew I Was on the right path because DNA does not lie!!! I traced her father all the way back to John and Susan, so I knew that I was in the right place. Now, I just needed to figure out who it was. I composed many emails, made a few phone calls (and got hung up on, more than once!), and kept searching. Eventually, I gave up again because I could get no further. I just could not find his last name in ANY of the specific lines. I even wondered if he’d given a fake last name, maybe he was married too?? I just didn’t know (spoiler alert: he wasn’t married at the time of my father’s conception). So, I just stopped looking again because I was sure I’d never find anything and it really angered me because I knew I was so close. (Another spoiler: that living Robertson female was my grandfather’s half-sister – they didn’t even know the other existed. Their father had been married to my grandfather’s mother first….they didn’t know their father was ever married before their mother. It was a surprise to them too, once it all came out. It was even a surprise to my grandfather, because he never knew his father at all, and didn’t even have his name! Long story there I will not go into!!).

One day probably 6 months later, I checked my email, and saw a message from someone about a close DNA match. I went and looked at her DNA profile and I swear I think my heart stopped for a moment. It gave her estimated relationship to my dad as a HALF SIBLING. Y’all, I nearly came undone right then. I immediately responded to her, gave her my number, and asked her to call me ASAP. I knew this was it. I just knew it. She called and we chatted for a moment before I just finally blurted out “is your father’s name William ___?” She said yes. I literally squealed out loud. My next question was a hard one but I asked anyway….”is he still alive?” She said yes, he was alive, 87 years old, and living only 2.5 hours from my dad. Even more astounding, she said they were coming to my dad’s city the very next day, for a doctor’s appointment. At the time I was living 1000 miles away, so I obviously couldn’t go meet them, but I immediately got on the phone with my dad to break the news. His father was alive and wanted to meet him. Throughout the years of searching, my dad had always expressed hesitation at meeting his father, because he’d felt like his father knew about him and left anyway (making inferences from the Mississippi lady’s story). He wasn’t sure he wanted to meet him but he agreed to it anyway (okay, I basically bullied him to death until he agreed, it’s true. I may or may not have threatened him in some way as well). I just told him it was one meeting, and if he didn’t like what his father had to say, he never had to see him again. Simple.

Well, the next day, my father met his father for the first time, at the age of 60. My new aunt sent me pictures of her, my dad, and their father. I cried. I was so happy for my father, and for myself too!! My dad and grandfather discussed the situation and discovered a few things that I will not go into detail about, but my dad realized it was not his father’s fault. My granny had done some things the wrong way, and it was not William’s fault. Any-hoo, my dad decided that he wanted that relationship with his father after all. They started out slowly, talking on the phone once a week or so, and over the next 3 years they saw each other only once more.

In 2018, my husband retired from active duty and we moved back to our hometown. I had prayed over and over that God would keep my grandfather and I both alive long enough to where I could get back home and meet him. Shortly after we moved, my new cousin called to tell me they were coming back into town for another doctor appointment and asked if I wanted to come meet them. Of course I said yes. I went that next day, nervous as I’ve ever been, but full of happiness. I thanked God the whole way there, for answering my prayer. I just went to the doctor’s office, because I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible while he was in town. When I walked in, my cousin Michael stood up and recognized me immediately. He hugged me, and I could immediately see the resemblance between us (subtle, but there!). Then, my grandfather stood up, a huge smile lighting up his face, and reached out to hug me. It was a moment I’d waited 39 years for. All the searching and hours of research and phones hung up in my face…all the prayers for God to intervene and show me the way…at least to give me SOMETHING to work with….the years of silence…it was all worth it in that moment. After we hugged, he said, “Well, it took 39 years to finally meet you, let’s not make it that long again, okay?” My heart soared. After his appointment, we all went to eat and spend some time together. It was there I discovered something else we had in common…our love for fried apples. I absolutely LOVE fried apples, always have. I didn’t know anyone else who loved them like I do. I found out that day that he did!! Sitting there at that table eating fried apples with him meant more to me than you can ever imagine. Then when he reached over and patted my knee, and said “You know, I sure am glad to know you,” I cried. I knew in that moment, that God had orchestrated everything. It was happening exactly as it should have.

the day I met my grandfather for the first time

I often wondered why God had kept us apart for so long. I eventually found out from talking to my new family members. They had all said he was a difficult man in his younger years, but that he’d changed in his old age. He was never the type to say “I love you” to his own kids or show them much affection. This was not the man I met. Over those next few years, I visited him several times, called him frequently, and he’d usually always say “we love y’all!!!!” whenever I hung up. My dad grew closer and closer to him, to the point they would sometimes talk 2-3 times per week. It was a relationship that might never have happened with the younger William….God kept us all apart until William had changed enough to be the father figure my dad had always needed. For 3 years, my dad had a father and I had a grandfather. Those 3 years were one of the biggest blessings in my life and I will cherish them forever.

Just a few weeks before Christmas this year, his health began to decline rapidly. He was in the hospital a week prior to his death, and had just decided to go home. There was nothing else they could do for him. He was on oxygen 24/7, constantly weak and unable to do anything. So, he made the decision to just go home and hospice was called to help ease him through the final stages. The night before he died was rough, according to my cousins, and he was in a lot of distress. It was clear this was the end. One cousin had gone in to check on him at around 2 in the morning, and he was sleeping. When he went back in at around 8, he was gone. I had prayed before going to bed that night, that he would pass quietly in his sleep and not suffer too much. God answered my prayer again. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see him before he died, because of the stupid Covid…I hadn’t seen him since last summer. After Covid hit, I wasn’t about to go anywhere near there, because neither he nor his wife needed to get that. It probably would have killed them both quickly.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering where the bees come in and why I haven’t told you yet. Hang on, I’m getting there!! Sheesh! So, the only material item he ever gave me was a bee-catcher. He built hundreds of them and sold them whenever he could. They were designed for carpenter bees, being made of wood with a hole, and then you’d put a glass jar at the bottom. The bee would enter and not be able to get back out. He even had a sign in his yard for his little business. So, I associated him with bees. I have a tattoo on my left forearm (see below) that I started last year as a memorial tattoo. I started with my granny and her mother, by putting my granny’s favorite flower and her signature (taken from an old document), as well as my great-grandma’s signature with my favorite flower (calla lily!). I had planned to add more over time, but wasn’t really in a hurry (pain, yo!!). I knew I wanted to put a bee on there for William, after he passed. I never got anything with his signature, or I’d have put it on there too…so I’ll just have to settle with a bee, placed over a flower. Last week I was thinking about this after his death, and trying to find a bee bracelet or necklace, to wear as a reminder until I got the ink put on. I found a tiny little bracelet charm and ordered it.

My memorial tattoo

Last Sunday, my husband, my 7 year old son, and myself, went to breakfast at a local restaurant. As we waited for our food, we were approached by one of those ladies who walks around making balloon animals for kids. My son wanted one, so she made him a reindeer. We tipped her well, and before she left, she looked directly at me, cocked her head to the side, and said “I think you need this.” She took it off her wrist, grabbed my hand, and put it on my wrist. I was floored. I had just prayed the night before, expressing to God that I was concerned because I didn’t know if William had known Jesus or not. Unfortunately, we had never talked about it, and it was too late for him then if he didn’t. I had expressed to the Lord that it weighed heavy on my mind. Then that next morning, in a random restaurant, a random woman gave me THAT…of all people, in all places, she gave me the one thing I associated with him. What was it? See below.

Right then, I knew it was a sign from God. I didn’t know if it meant he was with Jesus already or not, but I knew it was meant to ease my soul. Later that day i talked to my cousin Michael, and he revealed that William was a believer, he just never spoke about it because he was a private and reserved person. If that silly little balloon wasn’t a sign from God, I don’t know what is. I wore that silly little balloon until it broke off (no more than 2 hours!) and I will keep it forever, even when it deflates. Because, it will always be a reminder of the day that God sent me a sign to ease my trouble.

I’ll close today by telling you this: If you aren’t sure your loved ones know Jesus, talk to them about it. You might get rejected, but even if you do, rejoice in the fact that you share one more thing in common with Jesus now….He was rejected repeatedly by His own people. Yet He never waivered, never gave up, and pressed on until His mission was complete. We should be the same. If someone won’t listen, move on to someone else. You just never know when your message to them will be the spark that causes a forest fire…..one that causes them to seek Jesus and be saved from spiritual death and hell. We know that there is rejoicing in Heaven over just ONE sinner who repents and turns to Jesus. Jesus Himself told us that in Luke 15:10. “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Man, wouldn’t you like to be the cause of that one person turning to Jesus??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s