Easter Memories: Becoming my Granddaddy

SDN editor Ryan Phillips, fourth from the left in stripes, while his grandfather Joe Phillips holds Brad Phillips, Ryan Phillips’ younger brother. Also pictured, Phillips’ cousins Adam Phillips (left) and Brandi Adams (right) (courtesy)

This isn’t about Jesus. Or the procession to the cross at Calvary. I’m not even writing about the resurrection or the prior torture of a man millions view as the son of God.

But there is something we of all faiths can take away from this weekend: Love.

Put down the Cadbury Eggs and over-priced chocolate bunnies and think about the people around you. Granted, we shouldn’t need holidays to show love and affection to the people we care about. But on a weekend dedicated to one man’s torture (supposedly out of love for the entirety of humanity), love should remain the underlying theme.

Sitting next to your discarded Cadbury Eggs (that will inevitably be eaten later), also take the time to lay down your iPhone or iPad and embrace the time with your family or loved ones. Do it by going to church, throwing the football in the yard, drinking a cold beer or sweet tea on the porch, or just sitting around watching baseball and enjoying a moment in time you will never get back.

So now my story begins. It’s not set in Jerusalem or any holy site you will find in the Bible, but set in rural Tuscaloosa County, near the Fayette County line.

A fond memory I will always carry in my heart were the Easter Egg hunts at my grandparents. Hordes of kids - some I didn’t even know - would show up baskets in hand, with the yard and house ultimately being sprinkled with the fake cellophane grass that is customary with Easter baskets. My Granddaddy Joe took so much pride in hiding those little plastic eggs around their sprawling rural property.

I see myself becoming more like my Grandaddy Joe every day and could not be more proud of it. I have a propensity to wear hats because of my beautiful lack of a hair line. I enjoy dark liquor when the time permits and I feel more every day like I should find ways to help those around me, even when they don’t necessarily ask for it. I can still hear his warm laugh to this day and now catch myself regularly using his greeting of “Hey dude!”

I still remember his laugh on those special days, as frustrated sugar-fueled children with dirt under their fingernails frantically dug through the warm Alabama dirt for one of the many special “prize eggs” that once opened would yield a crisp wad of $1 bills. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t miss that man, but it’s the good deeds he did (when he didn’t have to) that left the biggest impact on me. And I believe that to be what we should cherish during Easter weekend, Christmas, Passover, Hanukkah, Ramadan, whatever you celebrate.

Sure, we can always recognize the reasons for the seasons, but even blind devotion to the eccentricities and pageantry involved in religious holidays can rob us of those moments we should cling to the tightest. Whoever or whatever you worship, keep that important and integral in your life, but treat the people you care about with an even higher devotion.

By the time Granddaddy Joe passed away when I was teenager, the Easter Egg hunts had long-since ceased and as time often has a way of doing, things changed. Luckily, I still have my Grandmother Dot, who spent countless hours taking me on “safaris” and watching “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross - and is also the reason I’ve found so much success in my career. Did I mention at one point she could take down a thieving white-tail deer in her garden from long range with a .22 rifle? The woman is a living storybook and I assure you, this will not be the last time you read about her on the Starkville Daily News opinion page.

Plus, I’m still fortunate enough to have both of my other grandparents (mother’s folks) - one of which frustratingly counts dominoes like a Vegas crook and the other who can’t seem to get numbers right … but that’s a story for another time. We will joke and yell over the dinner table as dominoes clatter, but these are the memories you should cherish. Even if you get skunked by a guy that knows everything in your hand before you do … looking at you Grandaddy Robert.

These are my people, and to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, I don’t need a church, steeple or congregation to see love and find God in the world and people around me. These memories are my examples and I hope that you and your family have plenty on this Easter weekend.

Shortly after Granddaddy Joe passed away, his good deeds found a way to resurface … imagine that?

My uncle, walking through the property one day, found two “prize” eggs, both with money in them. To this day, they are still sitting in the sun room at my grandmother’s house - with the folding money, plastic eggs and priceless memories readily accessible for me to remember one of the greatest men I ever knew.