MIAGD: Make it a great day
For at least thirty-seven years, I was called the nickname bestowed upon me by my maternal grandfather, “Honkin.”
Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Donna were 42 and 40 when I was born in 1964, and they still had two young sons, ages 12 and 10, at home. My grandparents lived at the block’s opposite end on the southwest corner of South A and 8th streets.
Grandma Donna loved taking me to watch the The Elwood Marching Panther Band rehearse in the parking lot of TWay plaza or in front of the Wendell L. Willkie High School. At three, I was already conducting and practicing my salutes like drum-majors Phil Updike, Phil Sherman, Keith Goodknight, and Phil Simmons.
One evening, after dinner at my grandparents, we were all gathered on the front porch, a wonderful pastime before decks began allowing more privacy. My grandparents took their regular seats on the swing to greet every passing neighbor friend. I was usually snuggled in between them.
Papaw asked if I’d seen the marching band practice that morning. I scooted off the swing and began marching around the porch playing my imaginary trumpet.
(And this is when both a nickname and my blonde nature kicked into full throttle!)
Papaw Leroy asked me, “Are you Honkin’?”
I stopped, curiously looked at my grandpa and replied, “No. I’m Darin.” I returned to my make-believe marching band.
My family roared with laughter and within a short period, I was being called, “Honkin’” or “Honk.” My grandpa liked to note, years later, “I think we all figured you out that day,” followed by his jovial eyebrow raise.
The family was not as consistent calling me Honkin’ as Grandpa Leroy was. Even the last time I saw Grandpa, a few weeks before he died, he greeted me, “well, there’s Honk!”
It’s been 16 years since I’ve heard my beloved nickname; when Grandpa died, the nickname went with him.
Today, Sunday, November 8, 2020, Papaw Leroy / Grandpa would have celebrated his 99th birthday.
Grandpa Leroy left us in June 2004 and at age 40, so did my cherished nickname.
What did not depart was the legacy of terrific humor and practical jokes that he’d bridged from previous generations. We are all the more richer for that portion of our DNA that manages to keep us afloat while riding life’s rollercoaster.
Happy birthday, Grandpa… I’ve not stopped missing you, but I’ve not stopped laughing and joking.