Thursday, June 23, 2011

May 7th - Celebrating the High Achievers

May 7th was a very special day!  The two high achievers in the family graduated on the same day.  How very appropriate!  The only problem was that our family had to split ways.  Joy's family traveled up to Tennessee to celebrate with Joy, and my family traveled to Atlanta to celebrate with Hannah. 
I SO wish I could have witnessed Joy being "hooded." She has worked so hard  for years to earn her doctorate degree.  I am not sure how we all survived  . . . yes, Joy was doing the hard work, but we were all stressing with her . . . every step of the way.  Thank goodness that she has a saint for a husband who was patient enough to endure such a feat.  Everyone in our family was literally singing "hallelujah" the day we  learned that she would be earning her degree! My dad was very proud of Joy's accomplishment.  I am really happy he saw her achieve this goal before he passed away.

Dr. Joy Collins Kitchens
Doctor of Education, Executive Leadership
Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate. Tennessee
Joy was the first person EVER to walk across the stage and receive a doctorate degree at this university! 

Joy's Family
Daniel, Dr. Joy, Alaina, Gary, and Sarah

While Dr. Joy's family was celebrating in Tennessee, my family was celebrating in Atlanta. It was a full day! It all started with a brunch to celebrate the honor graduates at Georgia State.

Hannah received her Honor Graduate cord at the morning brunch!
Hannah graduated Summa Cum Laude - impressive!! 

Hannah got ready for graduation after her brunch.  My gosh!  What are all those cords for??

This is our favorite graduation picture!  While the graduates were marching in, everyone in the audience was trying to spot their graduate.  Hannah turned the tables and zoomed in on us while we were looking for her!
All in a row:  Me (holding my camera), Hadrian, and Hannah's friends (Mariella, Samantha, and Eric - in the yellow shirt). We were all in a row. 
At least we weren't waving like the man in the green coat behind us!  LOL

Graduation was at the Georgia Dome.  There are A LOT of seats down there!!

Jimmy Carter was the commencement speaker.  His speech started out great but quickly deteriorated when he went off on a political agenda.  He lost me on universal health care. 

The most fun part of graduation!  The massive explosion of streamers!

Hadrian, Hannah, and Mom
Hannah is an official graduate of Georgia State University!  Yay!!
Bachelor of  Business Administration in Marketing and International Business

Last photo opp with the Panther! 

What a long day!!  After the graduation ceremony was over, the celebration continued with a fun graduation party, but that is a blog for another day!!  

I am VERY proud of our May 7th graduates! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Grandest Grandfather!

Many of you already know that I lost my daddy on June 11, 2011.  He died at 3:09 a.m. surrounded by the girls in his life - my mom, my sister Joy, and me.  I had been in Americus all day with Hadrian at college orientation, so I had a long drive back to Blairsville once I got the call.  I didn't arrive at his bedside until 1:15 a.m., and I was SO hoping he would still be alive when I got there.  Joy said that he was waiting on me, and he may have been. It reassured me to see him, to touch him, to hold his hand, and to watch him breathe his last breaths. He went very peacefully, praise God!

Joy and mom jokingly told me that he couldn't die without his favorite one there.  They have always said he spoiled me . . . that I got much more favor and attention. What can I say?!  :) 

My dad wasn't perfect by any means.  But, he was my dad.  He was one of a kind!  And, I know without a shadow of a doubt that he loved his girls.  There is no question in my mind that I was loved.  I remember my dad laying with me and singing to me, when I was little, to help me fall asleep.  I now know that he would have probably done ANYTHING to get me to fall asleep (including singing Ten Little Indians over and over) because he was probably exhausted . . . I am sure I was a handful.

My dad was fun.  He played with me. He took me camping, fishing, shopping, on long Sunday drives, taught me how to play cards, throw frisbees, and so many other things! I was his constant companion.  He taught me about gardening, cutting the grass, driving his truck with a stick shift, and about sports. We would sit and watch ballgames, and he would tell me everything about the game, the coaches, the players . . . and I loved every minute of it. He would take me anywhere I wanted to go.  And, when we would go to the store, he would always let me buy something!  How great was that!?  I have great memories of my dad . . . I am blessed beyond belief.  He had been at every event in my life until his health prevented him from doing so.

Now, fast forward to the grandkids.  If anyone thought I was the favorite, that totally ended when the grandkids came along . . . and rightly so.  He had five grandchildren and he would say they were all special in their own special way. This is how he described it . . .  Sarah was the first grandchild, Daniel was the only boy, Haley was born on his birthday (and that was really special), Hannah was the only redhead, and Hadrian was the baby.  So, each of his grandkids had a unique feature to be loved for!  And, he SO loved these five babies.

He was a great PA to these kids.  He was totally hands on. He played with them, tickled them, massaged them, watched movies with them, and spent quality time with them.  He took them to the Huddle House, to the store where they got to pick out whatever they wanted to eat, to the lake, to the swimming pool, for rides in the back of his truck, and took them on many travel adventures!  My girls never missed a year at the Georgia Mountain Fair. Talk about brave grandparents . . . . taking babies to the fair!!  Now, I must admit that Pa would disappear to the music shows while most of the fair rides were taking place.  But, who could blame him?!

After the funeral, the kids were talking about their favorite pa memories.  And, there were a bunch . . and lots of laughter!  Anyone who knew Pa, knew that he was always the jokester, and always had a nick name for everyone.  He was never at a loss for words . .  . as this was so eloquently pointed out at his funeral.  :)

Dad's casket had a memory drawer in it.  We let the grandkids be in charge of putting things in the memory drawer just before they closed the casket. These kids wrote Pa heartfelt letters, gave him a Fathers Day card, Haley put in a birthday card and wrote him a special note about sharing a birthday forever (sniff), the kids thought he needed his favorite hat, there were pictures, and a few other very special tokens.

At visitation, the kids were amazed at how many people came to pay respects to their pa.  He was just "pa" to them.  I don't think they had ever given much thought to how many people knew him and loved him.  They told me the only thing missing at visitation was the music.  We all know how much he enjoyed people and loved hosting parties . . . complete with live bluegrass music.  And, the kids were right . . . pa would have had a blast at his own visitation. 

After visitation on Monday night, I told the kids they needed to stop by Mom's house because there was plenty of food.  They informed me they were all eating at the Huddle House in honor of their pa.  They knew how much he ate there before he got sick, and he always took them there!  So, I said, "what a great idea!"  and off they all went to the Huddle House.  Well, the next day, they had pictures of themselves all outside the Huddle House (already developed!), and they somehow had gotten Pa an official Huddle House employee name tag with his name on it.  These all went in his memory drawer.  How cute!  :)  I loved this!

Pa's Pride and Joy

The picture above was taken at Pa's graveside.  From left to right:  Stevie (Dan's wife) whom Pa nicknamed "the little one," Daniel (the only boy), Hadrian (the baby), Hannah (the only redhead), Haley (the shared birthday girl), Sarah (the firstborn grandchild), Alaina (the only great grandchild - Pa was SO proud of her!), and Adam (Sarah's husband) whom Pa didn't miss an opportunity to affectionately insult.  Haley's husband, Austin, was in California on Military TDY (and sad he couldn't honor Pa). We remember Pa calling Austin "a bucket of trouble."

These kids would not have missed the opportunity to honor their Pa - Garnett Talmadge Collins.  Their pa loved them to pieces, was so proud of them, and invested his time and energy into their lives. He showed them how to be a fantastic grandfather. These kids will always carry special memories of their times together.  And, it could definitely be debated who had the most fun . . .  pa or the kids.  : )