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Remembering Callie: “Actions Speak Louder Than Words — Lessons from Granddaddy”

*Editor’s Note: This article written by Callie Daniels Bryant was originally published in the 2016 Sept.-Oct. issue of “SO & SO.” This article is being republished to commemorate her, a friend and colleague, who lost her life in a car accident Friday, Jan. 24. On Saturday, Feb. 1, a celebration of life will occur at Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi located on 3955 Ridgewood Rd. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Her celebration of life will start at 3 p.m. with her internment in the Northminster Columbarium to follow immediately.

Last winter, I saw a face that I haven’t seen in seven years: My Grandaddy. I saw him in my dreams, standing taller than I remembered him. His face was beaming, smiling as much as he had when I was small enough to curl up in his arms for an afternoon nap. There was one thing that could make him this radiant, I thought, and that thing had to be duck hunting.

Sure enough, he was covered head to toe in hunting gear as he roamed my husband’s family farmland in my dreams. I woke up to a soggy pillow with cheeks itching from dried tears. It was the first time I felt the word “bittersweet.”

I saw Grandaddy again at his happiest in Delta wilderness, and in my husband’s family’s land, too. Grandaddy died six years before I would marry – I sometimes wonder if he would’ve been happy that I found a man with farming roots like Grandaddy’s own
family had.

But it was a dream, and even then he left before we spoke. We instead stood there watching the sunrise, the ducks flying high as they could… The water was the same as the sky: blooming in radiance of a day’s start with the smallest hint of sky blue.

Rose and Callie Special Olympics
Callie and Rose Daniels, daughters of Special Olympics Mississippi executive director Monica Daniels, cheered on athletes from Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Callie is an Ole Miss graduate and former HottyToddy.com editor.

It was just a dream. My mind was only trying to reinvent an old memory into new as if my Grandaddy hadn’t died on March 3, 2009.

The next day I drove 20 minutes to work, the sky slowly brightening above Faulkner’s Scenic Byway (also known as Highway 30). I watched a kudzu valley glisten in clear white to deepest blue as I drove past. My fingers hurt from the cold, and I wondered if they felt as cold in 1994 when an ice storm flattened the Delta beyond most pessimistic expectations.

I remember an old picture of Grandaddy holding me above a snow-laden table but never letting my feet touch the chilly ice. He had a great smile on his face – he was showing his first-ever granddaughter her first snow.

He would go on to spend most of our time together showing me the world as he knew it in the Delta. From Gumbo Flatts in Lambert, Mississippi to his cabin nestled on a hill within Phillips County, Arkansas near the Mighty Mississippi to deep, deep woods he preserved in his backyard in Clarksdale and throughout the Delta…he made sure I saw them all, especially since I was learning to hear and speak as a child working to overcome profound hearing loss.

He wanted me to see what hard work, education and charity could do. Those values to him could change not only a person’s life but also impact those around that person, be it man, beast or nature.

My Grandaddy was a fine storyteller, but how could he tell his life lessons to a deaf baby who was learning to hear? How could he tell me how hard work and education saved him from a life of poverty? That he turned his success into restoration of his childhood forests, into offering employment to those who needed it, and to believing that deaf children like me would be successful?

Instead, he showed me.

Most of his stories I would eventually hear were told secondhand long after I mastered hearing and speaking…and long after he died. But I remember feeling deja vu when I heard others speak of him. I remembered thinking deep down I knew all this about him long ago.

When they said he had an incredible work ethic that would put any boot-strapper to shame, I remember visiting him at his office around 5 p.m. when his eyes danced about the invoice sheets as if he never aged to 60 years. He didn’t keep his success to himself – I saw how he paid it forward by restoring the Delta woodlands that he so loved to explore as a boy surviving the Great Depression in Mississippi; how he gave each and every employee
a chance to prove themselves at their jobs if only to get them out of poverty; and how he continuously supported my lifelong education into the hearing world through his charity to Magnolia Speech School in Jackson, Mississippi.

So when I heard of how he’d pull a shirt off his back if he believed it’d help someone, I thought, “Of course.”

And when I heard of his love for Delta’s wilderness, I remembered leaning far out of the window into dusty roads to look at the red sun blazing the day’s end over the corn he planted for the deer to eat. This was a ritual we’d do when the hot summer days cooled down. He would grab his keys, and I would climb into the front or back seats just so we could take long drives to look at Delta’s beauty without saying a word.

He didn’t have to explain to me how impressive the land restoration was, but I could see how one concerned man could restore a forest to last generations, both man and animal.
I remember him holding my hand as we walked through the backyard woods with trees towering over us. We came to a muddy creek and fished that day, and he never complained about hooking my worm when I was squeamish.

I remember him walking out, elbows jutting out proudly, as he peered upwards into the trees that he grew – motioning for me to come over and look at the eagles nesting, and hugging me close as he guided my binoculars to count one pair – no, two pairs of eagles!

And I remember him on the back porch of his cabin as he looked over the sunflowers that he planted near a river that flowed at the foot of the hill where the cabin rested. I had rolled right out of the bed that early morning, not even wearing my cochlear implants that enabled me to hear. But when I stepped out on the porch, he smiled at me and we wordlessly watched the sky change from a sleepy dawn to a blazing summer afternoon.

Looking back, I have never felt luckier to have witnessed such beauty. If only I could tell him that. So when I was told that he loved me, I remember thinking I already knew that – I knew from all the small, quiet moments we shared.

My only regret today is that I never got a chance to sit down with him to tell how I appreciated my inheritance so I could pursue a college education just like he pursued his college education to escape poverty, how despite my hearing loss I am working as hard as he had all his life, and how I do my best to give back to the world no matter how little I might have.

And, of course, how much I love him in return. But I think he knows.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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