By: Jonathan Noble
Grandpa Eads, my mother’s father, whom she always affectionately called “daddy,” was a strong man. A carpenter by trade, his features were rugged and his hands calloused; interestingly enough, however, even though he had spent most of his life outdoors, he was as pale-skinned as any Norseman crawling out from under a mountain of snow in the dead of winter! He burned very easily; never tanned (so far as I remember).
I don’t know exactly how old he was when I was born, but he was old. Not as old as Grandma Noble. She was born in 1890 and, so, was already 80 years-old when I entered the world. Grandpa must have been in his sixties, at least, given the fact that my mother was 39 (almost 40) years-old when she birthed me. Not that it matters that much. Grandpa lived younger than his actual age up until the last few months of his life, really.
He taught me to drive a nail when he and dad, Greg and Mr. Emfinger built the “barn” on our 20 acres in the country, just outside Headland. (Mr. Emfinger stands out in my mind because he wore glasses with two different colored lenses.) Grandpa also taught me to play horseshoes, which remains one of my all-time favorite outdoor activities … even though I don’t get to play very much.
He certainly had his hand in teaching me to fish. Dad did, too, but he was always so busy and never seemed to have a lot of time. We fished quite often in Old Mussy Creek, which was about a 15-minute walk from his little house at Camp Abel, two to three miles from our 20 acres ~ christened Noble Acres ~ where we made our home when I was about 10 or 11-years-old.
There was something else Grandpa contributed to my life not nearly as fun as playing horseshoes and fishing, or as practical as knowing how to drive a nail, either: Despondency in the future of this world. Hopelessness. Futility. Waiting for the “rapture” in prayerful expectation, all the while looking (and discussing) the “signs of the times.” This old world was quite literally going to hell, according to Grandpa.
Being able to look around the world for signs, and knowing what they meant and what would happen was kind of exciting. My own future in this deteriorating, death-ridden, already-damned world was not very promising, though, and I found myself wondering what reason there could be for me to think about doing anything. I certainly could not make any lasting contribution, any positive difference … unless, maybe, I became an evangelist, pulling as many “brands from the burning” as possible before the end.
Grandpa never got raptured ~ that is, taken directly into heaven by Jesus before the final, honest-to-goodness end of the world ~ and I know he was disappointed. He died of cancer many years later in our home in Crossville, Tennessee. Mom and dad, neither of whom shared his passion for the end times, eventually decided he had really been afraid to die and that’s what it all came down to, period. I think I agree.
Eventually, I cast aside his super-despondent eschatology of hopelessness. I simply could not continue on in life in this world saddled with the sickening thought that anything and everything I did or might do would, ultimately, prove absolutely futile. “Well, my life might end up being no good,” I thought, “but I’d like a chance … or at least to believe I have some chance to do something good and lasting. Just an opportunity.”
I still like fishing and playing horseshoes, and when on the now-rare occasion I do, I always think of my Grandpa Eads and, too, anytime I’m engaged in anything like carpentry. I wonder how he’s doing? Surely, better and happier; at least, I hope so, and I hope to see him again one day. (Do they play horseshoes in heaven?) Right now, though … I’d still like a chance to do something good and lasting. Just an opportunity.
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