Today would be my maternal grandfather’s 95th birthday. His name is Elisberry and he passed away in 1995, transitioning to his next spiritual assignment. Here’s a picture of him and my grandmother, Maxine, on their wedding day. I absolutely love this photo. They were married over 43 years when my grandfather passed away.
My cousins and I call him “Poppa” (paw-paw), his children call him “daddy”, my grandmother (his wife) called him Elisberry or “E.L.” for short. He was “E.L.” to other family members and friends, and then to his fishing and hunting crew he was “King Fish”.
When I was a small child he gave me the nickname “Yellow Belly”, partly a tie in to a fish reference, and the other part due to my lighter skin complexion. My cousin Princess still calls me by my nickname. It always makes me think of our grandfather.
He was a devoted husband and a proud father of three children—pictured in the collage below and also pictured above with my grandmother and my mother when she was a toddler. Poppa was a super duper awesome grandfather, and a committed provider and protector, who would do anything to help a loved one.
Matter of fact, the asthma attack that he succumbed to was triggered from working on a family member’s property. He ignored the symptoms, not wanting to leave the work unfinished.
Poppa was a hard worker, who sacrified a lot—as he never attended high school because he had to tend to the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. Heck, his asthma was a result of poor working conditions doing paint and body work for a Ford Motor Company subsidiary/affiliate. Lousy ventilation, inadequate safety equipment, and probably a lack of knowledge about the health risks as we know now. But he worked in those conditions to provide for his family, and to give them a life better than he had growing up.
That job made it possible for him to ensure that his children could focus on their education and not on working at a job, and he bought all three of his children brand new Ford Mustangs during their senior years in high school. His children never grew up facing the harsh realities he knew as a child and young man.
He and my grandmother worked hard so that their children didn’t experience poverty growing up. They were a part of the middle class. For him, the sacrifices he made were worth it.
Here’s a picture of Poppa, my grandmother Maxine (known as “Mamacine” by her grandchildren), and three of my cousins: Tia, Shalwan, and Michael (the toddler at the bottom). They, along with their youngest sibling Steven (who was born several years after this picture was taken), spent almost every weekend with our grandparents growing up.
Poppa didn’t have formal education, but my grandfather had a PhD in common sense and life. I’ve learned and recall more from this brilliant man than books or teachers ever provided. I continue to reflect upon and apply the lessons and skills that he taught me growing up. He taught me how to just be myself, how to laugh at myself, how to enjoy the quiet and hectic days, and the importance of family.
My grandfather taught me how to fish, hunt, plant and harvest food, survival skills, discipline, humbleness, patience, and forgiveness. Heck, my grandfather forgave his family members that stole land from him. I’m sure that in his mind he probably thought that if they needed it that much to con and steal it from him, then they could have it. He would leave the details to God.
In addition to all of these remarkable things, my Poppa taught me how to always be mindful of my surroundings and to take the life skills of country living and apply it to city life.
You don’t know how valuable those skills have been for this city girl. Growing up using out houses, running through wild country fields, eating the weirdest foods, climbing through bobwire, being almost elbows deep in dirt digging through his amazing garden for the best fruit and vegetables, learning about cars, and experiencing the joys of life with only the bare essentials. All of this equipped me to travel the world and embrace amazing experiences in environments most people would cringe to be in.
Some other things that he taught me— but I didn’t realize it until recently—was he taught me about being a responsible home owner, and how to rewire after retirement. My grandfather made sure that he and my grandmother’s home was paid off and well maintained, and he also ensured that my grandmother (who was an entrepreneur) would be financially cared for if he passed before her. Heck, my grandfather passed in 1995, and he was still taking care of my grandmother financially until she transitioned in 2017. How awesome is that?!?
Poppa remained active in retirement. He showed me the value of keeping your mind and body engaged and active, exercising both your physical and mental muscles. I truly believe that had that asthma attack not gotten over on him, my grandfather would’ve lived another 20-plus years.
I’m so grateful to be the grand daughter of this amazing spirit, this remarkable man, affectionately known as “E.L.”
I love and miss you dearly Poppa!
~Natasha your “Yellow Belly”
Copyright 2019. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.