During the Memorial Day weekend my aunt asked me about getting together for the 20th anniversary of my grandfather’s death coming up in July.
I kinda stopped in my tracks to think, man it’s been 20 years?
The death of the man I’m named for (Charles L. Jones), was really the first for someone I was close to and involved with his services.
It started (what seemed like the first death), five years prior when due to the onset of dementia my grandfather got lost walking from his south side Chatham home to the barber shop a few blocks away.
I was a freshman at Brother Rice (and managing equipment for the freshman baseball team), and didn’t hear about it until later that evening.
The next day (Saturday), he was found and safely returned home (that afternoon), and we had a game (doubleheaders every Saturday), so I worked the games but couldn’t stop thinking about him.
I really had to grow up quickly in dealing with such a dramatic situation for a loved one BUT had my own responsibilities too. But my granddad had prepared me through his incredible work ethic.
He also very sick during the July 1995 heatwave and required being rushed to the hospital and we learned about hospitals being on “bypass” and that was really the beginning of the end for him for the next year.
His last day was July 10, 1996.
We had gone to visit him that afternoon (it was a Wednesday), at the Mercy Nursing home in south suburban Glenwood and they told us “this might be it.” And then I took the call at home at 9 that night when they said he had passed.
We went back to the nursing home that night and met and then did an all-night vigil at my aunt’s house.
I was finishing up my second year at DePaul University and went to summer school that day. I was also working at Montgomery Wards in the old Lincoln Mall in Matteson.
I only missed one day of school or work to attend his funeral (I actually worked my shift at Wards the afternoon after our vigil because that what he would have done), this was the first of a bunch of hard losses.
His casket was the first (of many relatives), that I would be a pallbearer for. I can remember the day of his funeral, it was warm and sunny Monday and standing at the door at Saint Dorothy’s Church on east 78th Street and just looking at the sun thinking he was finally at peace and without pain.
I wasn’t comfortable with the whole funeral (my aunt wanted me to be a reader but I couldn’t do it), this kind of loss was new to me, and not that it gets any easier as time goes on.
This was the man who taught me about being a gentleman (no disrespect to my late father), but my grandfather was a long time church usher, he always dressed up and had an old school order about himself.
He worked harder than any man I’ve ever met and did so much with so very little. Never owned a car, never owned a home, saved and invested money “like nobody’s business”. That was one of his sayings.
He ate right, walked a lot, and treated my grandmother like royalty even when she wasn’t thrilled with him.
He didn’t say a lot but when he spoke you not only listened but did exactly what he said.
Like I said he was a church man, prayed in church with his rosary, never followed along in the prayer book.
He was a reverent of a man as you’d ever meet, in earlier years he served coffee after church. Good, strong Louisiana coffee (like New Orleans style Chicory coffee), just like his southern upbringing.
This was a man who at age 14 boarded a train in southwest Louisiana and came north to escape the Jim Crow south and worked diligently from the moment he got here. Started on the sheep killing floor of the old stockyards.
He worked security and several other jobs. I used to visit him his last job at Stebbins Hardware in the loop on Van Buren, it’s now the Harold Washington library.
Every time I walk past there I think of him working in the back, fixing something or cleaning up, he loved that place and it broke his heart when it closed.
I never saw a man take such pride in his work and he took such great care of me too.
I think of him often and try to do him right by keeping his ethics, his reverence and love of his wife, though I have a long way to go.
We were together for 20 years and now its 20 years later, I will never forget him and what he taught me, largely by example, thanks Granddad.
Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: African American History