My grandpa, Henry Hammond Medlock, died before I could really know him in life, but he has always seemed to be part of our lives. Growing up, we always had framed pictures around with him in them, something I have continued in my own home. In recent years, as my family has inherited family photos, I’ve spent many hours looking through photos of him, finding myself especially interested in his younger days and the last few years of his life. I got to know him a little better when, in a college editing class, I edited and contextualized the diary he kept during World War II for my term project. I loved hearing his voice and knowing how he felt about my grandma and his family.
My sister and I each share a date connection with his life. She has the honor of sharing a birthday with him and I turned 3 just three days before he died.
In sorting some papers recently, I came across a yellow note pad with a few pages left. On it is an unfinished letter in my grandfather’s handwriting. The letter is addressed to “My friends,” so I do not know it’s intended recipient, but it seems to be someone he is well acquainted with since he talks of visiting the friend’s parents when he goes to North Augusta for his 50 year high school class reunion. It’s also unclear if the letter was ever sent; perhaps this version was a draft. The letter is dated 28 March of the year my sister was born. I have removed some of the identifying details for privacy reasons.
On the afternoon of the 8th of this month, my #1 wife arrived from D.C. on a N.Y. Air flight only 5 minutes late….We have a beautiful little #2 granddaughter born after much trepidation, 10 hrs labor which ended up as a [cesarean] section. About 2 wks premature but beautiful…she had a little problem – she would stop breathing[,] turn blue, have spasm [and] start breathing again. She [and] K were kept in [the hospital] 7 extra days. By the way[,] she was born on my birthday at 5:25 p.m. [and] weighed 7[lbs.] 10 oz. Hope she does OK and wish they could come this summer but will have to wait and see.
The same affection that he wrote with about his family in the WWII diary is apparent here as he writes about the arrival of my sister. We did go see them sometime that year, but I don’t have any memories the visit.
In December of the same year, my grandfather passed away, a few days after my 3rd birthday. Despite being so young, I have a vivid memory of being at the grave-side service. It’s a strange memory, I remember it from my perspective, but can also see it from the perspective of a person that would have stood on the opposite side of the coffin. I can see myself in a little yellow dress and knee-high white socks, surrounded by people I don’t quite see, but I know are my family. We are under a canopy and there is an American flag draped over the coffin. In my memory, it’s chilly and maybe raining. I am aware that people are sad and that my grandfather is in the coffin, but I don’t know what I felt on the occasion.
We used to visit his grave every time we went to visit my grandmother. One Christmas visit during a college break, I took the two-plus mile run from her house to his grave. I laid on the grass at his grave and wished him a Merry Christmas while I waited for my family to join me there. We don’t get there as often since my grandmother passed away (we live a couple states away), but we try to go whenever we have the opportunity.