On a Thursday morning at 10:55am, June 3rd, 2004, my grandfather, Leroy “Red” Barmes, slipped away from this life.
Throughout most of my life, he was more than just ‘grandpa;’ he was also a second dad. He was the one male figure I could count on in life, and I know I’ve enjoyed being a father and uncle due to the joy I know he took from his family.
By the time I was able to walk and talk as a toddler, Papaw Leroy dubbed me with the nickname, “Honkin’” or simply, “Honk.” He was the only one who ever called me this and most of my cards or letters for nearly forty years have been addressed to “Honkin’.
One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is not one most grandchildren would have.
We were having a church picnic out at Calloway Park and I, at age three, climbed to the top of a slide that was twenty feet tall. For whatever reason, after reaching the top, I looked over the side and lost my balance. To this day, I can still clearly remember falling head first and seeing the ground begin to blur into a mass of solid green. The image of my forty-six year old grandfather running towards me with outstretched arms is forever etched in my mind. Grandpa caught me that afternoon.
For me, and the former baseball and football star, it was a perfect catch!
[From the funeral notes I delivered June 7, 2004.]
Now, it’s my turn to stretch out my arms, prepared to catch my own sons, my nephews, and my niece – and hopefully one day, my own “Honkin’.”
So, today, with heartfelt gratitude and deep affection, and a treasury of many wonderful memories, our family concludes a chapter in a tremendous book that is far from being finished. Rather than bidding Grandpa farewell, I am compelled to return to our Barmes roots in Germany and simply say, “Auf wiedersehn” – “until we meet again.”