Saturday, September 09, 2006

Remembering Grandpa Holcomb

Today is the second anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death. When he died, he had managed to make the ripe old age of 91. In my early years, he was perhaps the greatest influence on me--a man larger than life who could swing a hammer, butcher a hog, preach a sermon, and still have time for his grandson. A man who built with wood and words, I managed to somehow inherit the latter, but, unfortunately, not the former.

T. P. Holcomb was born in 1913, the year his own paternal grandfather died. He loved to relate to me the story of his own grandfather's Civil War exploits. Caught in the crossfire of cannon spitting out horrific shrapnel and cannon balls linked together by chains, he hunkered down under a log fearing for his life. Unfortunately when he raised up to fire, a musket ball took off the bottom of his chin and so he wore his red whiskers long ever after that to disguise his battle scars.

T. P. (called Price by many of his friends) gave to me both a love of stories and my middle name--Thomas. My own penchant for questioning everying, for walking around an issue from every aspect, has caused some to see me as sharing some of the same attributes that have sometimes, wrongly, been assigned to the apostle by that name. I prefer Frederick Buechner's take on doubt, though. He says that doubts are "the ants in the pants of faith." They are what keep us both honest and seeking.

So, today, I remember my grandfather whose faith was of a different sort than mine. Having grown up in the first third of the 20th century, he bore the wounds of the Fundamentalist/Liberal debates. Mine is a somewhat different faith--but a faith, nonetheless, still rooted in the "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" which grandpa laid hold of. Thanks, grandfather, for being true to your calling and passing on the faith "once delivered." May God give me grace to do the same to my heirs, students, and colleagues.