This month marks the passing of two of my precious grandparents.

My grandfather, William E. Bowens, passed away eight years ago this week, and my grandmother, Sarah Virginia Bowens, has been gone two years last Wednesday.

People always tell you not to take the time you have with your elders for granted, but we never listen, do we? I think about the two of them often, but their memory has weighed heavy on my mind these past few weeks.

My grandfather, who in truth was my mother’s stepfather, would never have let on that we weren’t his blood grandchildren. He was a light-hearted soul that never turned down a moment to slide a joke in a conversation and kept quiet during quarrels and arguments. He came from the “Greatest Generation” and served his country during WWII, Korean War and Vietnam with the United States Navy. He traveled the world for years but eventually lived his life out in Gadsden.

To say my PawPaw Bill wanted to spoil me would be an understatement. Here’s an example: My grandfather never wanted me to feel left out of situations. Each year, if we were at their house on my sister’s birthday, he’d pull me into the other room, unfold several bills from his wallet and hand them to me. He’d tell me he loved me and then we’d go back to celebrating the actual birthday at hand. If we weren’t visiting at the time, my sister’s birthday card would have a little note inside, usually scrawled at the bottom of the card by my grandmother, that instructed them to give me a certain amount of the birthday money. I’m sure they did this for my sister on my birthday each year, but I never admitted it. For me, it was our little secret and I loved it.

As I got older I don’t remember if my special (not) birthday money continued, but he still found ways to show me he cared. He’d sit and listen to a local radio station that aired vehicle sales, and he’d periodically write down the information for every truck he thought would be a good fit for me.

My Granny Bowens was the hardest working women I’ve ever met. She had a hard, tired upbringing and continued to work long hours up until I was a child. She took care of more people than I can count and did everything she could for the people she loved. Even with her hardships and tired eyes, my grandmother was always equally caring to me. She had her little ways of making me feel like I was the only one around in a slew of grandchildren, usually by spoiling me in the kitchen, where she was an expert.

At her house, I had my own spoon and fork that they called the “Emmy spoon and fork,” which were really just small silverware that I thought were made just for me. My grandmother always had these ready when it was time for me to eat.

Every Thanksgiving that we were able to go see them, she made me a separate pan of chicken and dressing. I know, I sound like a brat, but that’s what grandmothers do, isn’t it? Spoil us as much as they can. My family liked a drier, firmer dressing, and I like a more moist dressing with gravy, so she’d pull out my special pan and heat it for me.

When I lost both of my front teeth, she cut up my food for every meal, even the corn on the cob, to help me out.

There’s something so unique about the love from a grandparent. It’s constant, it’s unconditional and it’s beautiful. Like most, I wish I’d asked them more questions, written down more of their stories and taken more pictures. I wished I’d visited or called them on the phone more. Losing your grandparents is part of growing up, I know that, but sometimes I wish they were still here, finding ways to show their love.

So, now, all I have are these special memories: my (not) birthday money and my special silverware and food.

Emily Kirby is a staff writer for the Times-Journal. Her column runs every other Tuesday. She can be reached at ekirby@times-journal.com.

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