Beneath My Granddad’s Hat…

Image result for free google images of drawings of men wearing hats or caps

My granddad on my mom’s side always wore a hat, one with a brim on it that very effectively hid his eyes from the world. As a little girl, I remember stooping over while trying to peer underneath the hat. I just wanted to see his eyes. Granddad was a tall man, about 6ft 2 I imagine. His ever-present hat made him appear to be even taller, such a majestic and powerful figure as seen through my youthful eyes. When I would call out to him, he would often tilt his head just right, revealing two shiny brown balls of joy that made my heart dance with excitement. His eyes always seemed to be filled with laughter, even when he wasn’t smiling, but the smile was never far away.

It was a rare occasion to find my granddad without his hat. Sometimes, I would stand and watch grandpa sleeping under its safety and security. I used to think it was so funny when he would fall asleep in his favorite chair, his faithful ‘companion’ completely covering his face. At those times while granddad slept, the hat seemed to take on a life of its own, as it loyally watched over its owner. while providing a kind of protective shield from onlookers. As granddad quietly snored, the hat would rise and fall with each intake and exhale of his quiet rhythmical breathing.

It has been a very long time now since my granddad went home to Glory to be with his Father. Even though the window panes of my memory have aged, I still remember him exactly the same way I did all those years ago. While the hat he wore accented his signature style, the man underneath was, is and will forever be…..priceless!!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

Images: Free Google Images

Two Wings and a Prayer

Ever since I was a little girl, airplanes have fascinated me. I remember my grandmother taking a flight occasionally and how she seemed to do it with ease. Every time I saw one of those gigantic objects in the sky, I simply could not understand how it could possibly stay in the air, not to mention fly from place to place. I had secretly sworn to myself that I would never fly.

Little did I know at the time, that those feelings of fear and apprehension would manifest securely into my adult life. I knew that I was not alone in my fear of flying, better known as aerophobia.  I of course came to understand with much more clarity what was happening in adulthood than when I was a kid. I realized that there were maybe 2 little men flying this large piece of equipment.How could these planes possibly stay in the air? Couple that with dozens of passengers with baggage adding to the weight of this already over-sized aircraft. Being aware of these facts only made my fear of flying stronger, if that were possible.

I wondered for years about this, but was not so curious to find out for myself. However, deep inside I knew that I wanted to conquer this fear but how? I wasn’t even able to accept the fact these planes could stay in the air, even though I had seen it a hundred times with my own eyes. But, I couldn’t help but be curious about how cool it must be to fly from one place to the next and arrive fresh and collected. Would this ever be a possibility for me? Or would I just resolve myself to driving everywhere? There went my dreams of seeing California and Rodeo Drive, considering my east coast residency.

An opportunity came up in August 2008 giving me the chance to conquer my fear of flying once and for all. My sister was planning a mini-vacation to Baltimore, MD and D.C. and asked if I wanted to come along with her and my niece. I jumped at the chance. I knew that once I purchased tickets for my son and I, there would be no turning back! I was extremely excited about it, nervous, but excited.  I was finally going to go on a real vacation and fly some place to do it! It was a first flight for myself, my son and my niece.

The flight went well and I handled it with much more ease than I ever thought I would. The take off was totally exhilarating! Once we landed, thoughts rushed into my head promptly reminding me that I still had to make a return flight back. Thankfully, the flight back went smoothly as well. I had prayed, I had flown, I had done it! I had finally accomplished something that has been haunting me for years! But would I do it again?

I caught a late night episode of Nightline recently and what do you think was the featured subject? People with a fear of flying! Evidently, there’s a retired USAF pilot turned therapist called the Plane Whisperer! Who knew? Where was this man when I needed him? He offers these classes where people with this fear, take lengthy flights to try and conquer their fears of flying. A  good portion of these classes center around teaching people to learn to control their breathing when feeling anxious. The Plane Whisperer also supports that there is a 1 in 60 million chance of dying as a result of flying, no matter how often a person flies. Amazing! Somehow, I think that even had I been armed with this information prior to my own flight, I don’t know that it would have made much difference.

During a flight with the Plane Whisperer and other passengers, one woman was practically hyperventilating and became very nervous and agitated and wanted to stop and open the windows. It’s like she didn’t have any air.  Her feelings of anxiety were very evident and I felt like I could relate to what she must have been experiencing. The fact that she wasn’t in control of the plane was the biggest thing for her to get over. By the end of the segment, she was calm and was making her way to putting her fear(s) behind her. It had taken her 4 classes to make the flight to Las Vegas, but she did it. Another man, changed his mind about the flight after his fear overtook him. This very fear had prevented him from attending his own parents’ funeral. But he still couldn’t bring himself to get on that plane. He just wasn’t ready.

It would be safe to conclude that the only way to conquer this fear or any other for that matter is to just do it! But you have to resolve it in your mind that you will not let your fear(s) keep you from living and doing the things you love. So say a prayer, then take to the skies by way of 2 wings and a prayer that are only going to help get you there! Happy flying!!

What would my grandma say?


I often wonder what my grandma would say about so many things if she were alive today. She had such high hopes for me and my siblings. My grandma had a unique way of making each one of us feel like we had a special and individual relationship with her. It takes a special person that can make so many feel uniquely special, all at the same time.

I can’t help but feel that my grandma and I shared the most unique bond of all. I was the firstborn and my mother has often told me that my grandma fell in love with me instantly as a baby. So much so that she actually kept me for the first nine months of my life!  This still amazes me when I think about it now in my adult life. It started off that grandma was only going to keep me for a couple of weeks to give my mother a little break. A couple of weeks became a  month, two months, so on and so on until nine months quickly rolled around. My mother actually had to insist that my grandma give me back which my grandma of course did, but reluctantly.

Sometimes, I think my own bonding time with my mother suffered some as a result of the first crucial months being spent away from her. It’s almost as if there’s some kind of unspoken disconnect that exists between my mother and I, even to this day. Now, let me be very clear. My mother and I love each other to pieces, but I often feel that intangible missing link that casually floats between us.

My parents used to take my siblings and me to stay with grandma for the summers. We would cry when our parents dropped us off and we would cry when they came to pick us up. Oh the fickleness of children! My grandma would always promise that one of those old days she was going to come back home with us and stay for a couple of days! But until that time came, we just cried like babies when we had to leave grandma at the end of our summer visits.

This one particular summer visit had quickly come to an end. I knew there was a chance that grandma might come back with us this time, but I also knew that she probably wouldn’t. To our surprise,  grandma announced at the very last minute that she would indeed be traveling back home with us for a visit! We were beside ourselves with joy! We didn’t have to be sad about leaving grandma behind  because she was coming with us this time! We couldn’t have been happier!

I had recently learned to “french braid” my hair and had been promptly given the job of braiding all three of my sisters hair as well. Can’t say that I was happy about that but practice makes perfect, right?  Even though my grandma preferred wearing a wig, she was so excited about my new braiding skill, that she wanted me to try it on her as well. I happily braided her hair that weekend. I don’t know who was happier – me or grandma. Grandma only stayed for a few days as she was preparing to move the next weekend into a new house closer to town. She was so excited about us visiting her there in the future summers. That next weekend, my dad went to pick her up for the move. He could see my grandma sitting in her chair by the window as she had often done while watching and waiting for us to arrive in the summers. My dad knocked and knocked but she did not come to the door. My dad went and got someone to help break open the door. Sadly my grandmother had  passed away in her chair with her coat on waiting to go to her new surroundings, but she never made it. I still remember the day my father came home and broke the news to the rest of the family! I learned later that she had passed away with the french braids that I had done still in her hair! My grandma was indeed a special woman and I still feel a bond with her, all these years later. I hear her quiet encouragement when I am hesitant about a new project or adventure. I wonder what she would think of what I’ve accomplished thus far. Would she be pleased with the adult woman I’ve become? I would love to know what she would make of the world and all of the changes that have taken place since she passed away all those years ago. What would she think about all the things I’ve gone through in my life so far? I may never know the answers to these questions but I do know that grandma is somewhere smiling and marveling at everything. She may not be here in the flesh but she is always here in spirit! I will always love you grandma!

May 2020

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