Below is a reflection I wrote about Papoo for Christmas 2001. Papoo died in January 2007. I miss him.
Reflection on a Man…
or Is Papoo a Case?
Claude Edward Johnston, who is this man? Where did he come from, and why does he think what he thinks? I cannot even start to answer any of those questions, can any of us? What I shall do is write some of my thoughts about this child of God. Since I have always thought of Papoo as a rambler, I too shall ramble as to my own reflections of him. It should only be the way.
Once there was a child who disobeyed his mother. She told him that if he didn’t do what she told him, he would be thrown out of the window. It didn’t take long for the child to disobey when his mother promptly picked him up and threw him out the window. (Of course being a smart and prepared mother, she knew that the child would disobey her and already had the window open and that there was plenty of snow on the ground to cushion the fall.) The child was taken by surprise but from then on he took seriously what his mother said and obeyed her.
How many times have we heard Papoo tell this story? I can still see him telling it to me as I set at the kitchen table in the morning over coffee. I have not told it as well as Papoo does in his deep southern accent and body motions to boot. He loves stories. Not just for the sake of hearing himself tell it either. Papoo is much the same as Jesus. His stories have a purpose and a deeper meaning much like Jesus’ parables. To many times I have laughed at Papoo and all of his stories. Have I been missing the point? What is your favorite Papoo story?
“Teague why don’t you come to Gruver and see me for Christmas.” That was my desire the first year that Teague and I met. Teague told me that her Dad said I should come to Dallas and meet her family first before she came to see me in Gruver. I remember saying to myself, “That man is right. That is as it should be.” So off I flew to Dallas to meet the Johnston clan. I was brash and full of myself and all that I thought I was. A country bumpkin from Gruver is how I was seen and closer to the truth. I felt love in this house on Ridgetown Circle. As I reflect, many others must have felt that love. How many people do you think must have come in and out of that house? The one that come to my mind is Charlie. Charlie was attracted to Ed. He must have felt some of that love. I know it didn’t come from me because I was very uncomfortable with Charlie. I didn’t want to be around him, and I was always ready for him to leave. Papoo did you like Charlie? I think you did. Why? Was it because you saw him as a child of God? Like yourself.
This is a very important aspect of C.E. Johnston. He might be too honest for his own good. Papoo likes to think. Papoo like to talk. Sometimes Papoo talks before he thinks. Do I always tell people how I feel? Papoo does. He lives in a fishbowl. He lets everyone see inside himself. I know that he is against the death penalty and abortion. He doesn’t like Nixon or Clinton. He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He doesn’t like phonies.
Papoo quote: “There are three types of people in this world fits, misfits, and counterfeits. Which one are you?”
Papoo is Catholic. What does that mean? When I think of Papoo, his religion comes to mind. Would you say that he loves Jesus? Whenever the sign of Peace is passed in the Mass, I can hear the Peace in Papoo’s voice and see the Peace in Papoo’s eyes, and feel the Peace in Papoo’s touch. I could not deny this even at the time I believed the Catholic faith to be a false religion. When I came in touch with the Johnston household, I came face to face with Catholicism. Sure I saw people with normal problems, but I also saw a deep faith and trust in Jesus. I don’t know how else to say it but that is just what I saw and felt. The leader in this faith and family was the man, Mr. Johnston. If someone were to come into my home thinking that Catholicism was a false religion, would they come to the same conclusion as I? Does Papoo struggle? Sure that is what it means to be a follower of this carpenter from Nazareth. We cannot do it alone. We must walk with Jesus and to many times the road is rough and bumpy, but Jesus is always there.
Isn’t it fun at the Johnston house at the holidays? O sure we all get stressed out from the pace and all of the people. But aren’t the Johnston’s fun! I think so. I think the Comers would say so too. Some of the best times I have had are sitting in the living room, kitchen or den and sharing a drink and sharing each other. This is defiantly a time for Papoo to shine. He loves people and telling stories (see above). This is a good time in life. We celebrate family. Have you ever thought of family in all of its forms? We each have our own families, and we are all a part of a much bigger family with Papoo as the patriarch. The family still goes on. We each have our spouse’s family, our neighborhood family, our city family, our church family, our national family, and our human family. Hmmmm, I wonder what Papoo would say to all of that.
What is a Father? What is his job? I remember Teague telling me that before Papoo walked her down the wedding aisle he let her know that it was still all right to change her mind. That is certainly one job of a Father. Letting your children know that you love them and they can always change. I watched Papoo and Noni as they were raising their other children. Of course they were on the downside of that raising because most were in their teens and testing the waters of adulthood. Courtney and Elizabeth were the only two that I had the privilege of watching go through the *ugly and awkward * stage of life. Yes Mike and Peter they were both awkward, but not very ugly.
Papoo saying: You have taught a child all he will know by (insert age here from 5 to 13, I think Papoo always changed it every time I heard him.) From then on it is your job as parents to give him rope. We as parents give our children rope and then as they mess up we gather that rope back in.
As I have been practicing this parenting process, one thing I have noticed is that parenting as well as growing up is a learning process. We never finish learning as parents and I am sure Papoo would say that he is still learning and doesn’t know it all. Even though at times he certainly acts like he does. I have found that the only people who really think they know everything are teenagers and it sure is fun proving them wrong.
Have you ever noticed what a reading family the Johnstons are? Do you ever wonder why? I have a theory it is because the children saw their parents reading. Of course if Papoo has his head in a book you can’t get a word in edge wise can you Noni! Papoo loves books. He loves stories, and he loves to share those with others. I think it is so much fun to sit around the table and talk about books we are all reading or have read. I find it interesting that the Johnstons read a lot of the same stuff. Do you reckon that is why they think so much alike? Papoo has recommended many good books to me. It amazes me to see how fast he reads, and how much he remembers. Teague reads just as fast as Papoo, but I don’t think she remembers as much of what she reads. Papoo reads a wide range and has his favorite authors. I find it interesting that when I tell Papoo about a book he has usually already read it. That is until I started reading Catholic books and telling him about them. You need to read more books by Catholic authors Papoo.
How could I ever say anything about Papoo and leave out his love for food? I am still amazed at how much the man can eat. Of course now I have a miniature Papoo living in our house who goes by the name of Reid, he takes after his Papoo in his love for food. I had the honor of cooking chicken fried steak for Papoo on my first visit to his humble abode. I did a whole country meal with potatoes, gravy, and of course bread to sop the gravy with. Noni and the rest of the family didn’t know what to the think of this bumpkin come to town, but Papoo dug in and loved every minute of it. The man can eat! He can eat and drink a huge meal and then have two or three cups of ice cream to top it off. It doesn’t matter the flavor. Papoo likes them all. Papoo is a good cook too! Who can forget Eddie Spaghetti, Dew Drop Chili Dogs, or the Papoo Corn that our family named in his honor. I love his potato salad and anything he cooks on a grill. We could still be enjoying smoked food if Courtney wouldn’t have blown off ole “what’s his name.”
Ahhh the food at Thanksgiving and Christmas! How good it is, and everyone has their specialty. I won’t try and name who cooks what for I would surely be mistaken. Of course everyone knows Mike Furr cooks the best turkey in town. That is why the Comers always drop by. The conversation ain’t so bad either.
Do you remember when the Johnston’s got their very own angel? Sure you do. It had four legs and a white coat (which sometimes was full of fleas.) She hated anyone in uniform, and had been known to bite a postman or two. Ally just showed up one day. If I remember Laura (?) found her in a parking lot. She immediately became part of the family. I couldn’t figure out what this Johnston fascination with animals was. I will never forget the day I heard Papoo say that, “He thought Ally was an angel sent from God.” Boy! I thought for sure Papoo had lost it. I just knew he was crazy. Well, I guess now I’m the crazy one because I too have come to that conclusion. Do you remember when Ally showed up? If I remember right it was just about when all the children were out of the house. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have all the coming and going in a place like the Johnston’s all of a sudden come to a halt? Maybe God did send Ally their way to give them someone else to look after and care for. Sure she was a pain sometimes, but aren’t all the people we love? Take Papoo for example (since that is who we are talking about) can’t he be a pain even though you love him? Don’t think all angels have to look mighty and have wings. They are all around us we just have to notice them. Just like Papoo did.
Does anyone get advice from Papoo except me? Mike, has he told you the best way to run bike shops? I didn’t know Papoo knew so much about farming. The first time he showed up in Gruver. He started showing me all the places that needed improvement around the place. The ideas this man can come up with! I have been given ideas ranging from catfish farming to corn heaters. There is no telling the fortunes I have passed up. All because I have let Papoo’s ideas fall through the cracks. What makes him think outside of the box like he does? Is it because he sees things others don’t? If Papoo had someone with the money and the will to carry out all of his ideas, he could be dangerous. He could be rich or broke or probably both. Just don’t be average. Papooism “Average is the best of the worst or the worst of the best which one are you? Either way you are worst.” We can all safely say Papoo is not average.
Has Papoo given your children a nickname? He has mine. I think they all have at least two or three. The kids think it is fun and always talk about them after he is long gone. There is something very personal about having your own nickname from Papoo. Sometime the name gets into the psyche of the person other times they are just for fun. Either way it is special because it came from Papoo.
Have you heard the man snore?
No one snores like Papoo!