Today I am missing your birthday party. A lot of our family is gathered there with you, and I am here. I hope you know that I am so sad that I can't be there to celebrate with you. And this is a birthday that deserves to be celebrated! 90 is pretty amazing, after all.
For 90 years you've made the world a better place just by being you. For 38 years you've made me a better person by being my grandfather. Lots of little girls have grandfathers who love them, but I had YOU.
They tell me that when I was born, you made a "It's A Girl" sign with my name so that everyone at work could share your excitement.
You let me wear your pajamas when I spent the night at your house. Yes, I had my own, but it was so much more fun to borrow your striped, button-down pjs. You would roll up the sleeves and the pant legs to make them "fit."
You gave me my first "driving" lessons on the old John Deere tractor. I remember the thrill of moving from turtle speed to rabbit! I thought I was so wonderfully grown-up...and you never would have let me think anything else.
You traveled with me. Those trips to Lake Livingston and Arkansas were childhood highlights! You and Grandmama introduced us to The Oak Ridge Boys. I remember how I felt like I had beat the system when I stood with one foot in Texas and the other in Arkansas. And you know that I can't think about going to the lake without recalling how I went running to you for help when Phil's raft became untethered from the dock. You were set on finishing your Oatmeal Creme Pie before moseying down to the water to save my brother. Ha!
You took me to work with you, giving me hundreds of hours of fun and thousands of delightful memories. You allowed us access to the activities building where we played pool and foosball. Phil and I loved to roller skate, but we loved it so much more when you skated with us! When we were hot and sweaty, you opened up the soda machine and gave us Mr. Pibb. You took us in to the sanctuary where I played the organ and Phil preached from the pulpit (which he could barely reach).
You taught me to love good food. I don't know why you let me drink pickle juice or mix mashed potatoes in my Blue Bell...oh, I DO know: I wanted to! Your fried catfish and the infamous Buck Burger are forever unmatched in yumminess and love.
You drove up to my middle school in that old church van to pick up Caroline and me. How embarrassing! You came to see me off to my Prom. You were there for my high school graduation. I often found "a little extra" in my mailbox when I was a poor college student at HSU.
You bought my wedding dress. There couldn't have been a sweeter gift.
You loved Abby Dog with me from the time she was a puppy. She made countless trips to your house with me, and she just knew that you would take her for a fun walk. She was always right.
Each of my sons met you when they were just a few weeks old. Even as infants, they were a captive audience for Buck. That has not changed as they have grown. You are a hero to your great-grandsons, as you are to all of us. They are fascinated by your war stories, and they know you can be counted on for a pocketful of Tootsie Rolls.
Some of these memories are funny; all of them are good. You've given me a lifetime of happiness and love. But I think that the greatest gifts you've given me are not things you have done, but it is who you are. You are calm and you are gentle. You are a hard worker, and sometimes you are stubborn (remember when there was the huge flood and you refused to leave with everyone else?). You love Jesus, and you are committed to His church. You are quiet and peaceful. You have a great sense of humor, and you make people laugh. You are love. That's the thing: I have never doubted for even one second that you love me. You make me feel special, like nothing matters more to you than being with me. I wish everyone could have that feeling at least once.
I want you to know today that you are so very important to me. I am proud of the man you are, and I am enormously proud that you are my grandfather. I am thankful that my sons have a relationship with you and that they get to make their own memories with Buck, just like their mom did. I appreciate the investment you have made in me. I know that I would not be the same person without your influence on my life. I love you very, very much. No matter where I am, my heart is there with you.
Happy 90th Birthday, Buck!