LESLIE CRISS: Lesson from grandfather worth more than greatest catch on lake

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind.”
– Washington Irving

Two days ago my paternal grandmother would have celebrated 99 years of life, but she died just shy of 93. She was my heart and I miss her.
But this column’s not about her, rather the man who was her husband, the father of her four sons. And my grandfather.
It is, after all, Father’s Day.
Francis Wortham Criss was a Bible-believing Baptist who greatly enjoyed the occasional bourbon and branch. He took pride in proclaiming he’d read King James from cover to cover. And not just once.
His doctor daddy told my grandfather he’d pay for him to go to school anywhere in the country if he’d agree to follow in his footsteps and become a physician. Instead, he studied electrical engineering at Mississippi A&M back before it became Mississippi State.
He worked his way up through the ranks at Mississippi Power & Light, eventually becoming district manager in Grenada, the town of my birth.
We didn’t see eye to eye on most things political, my grandfather and I. And he got quite a charge out of yanking my chain every chance he’d get. I tried often, but failed more, to keep my cool, a fact that gave him great pleasure.

Practicing patience
I believe our differences were forgotten, however, in the few months before his death. I gave up my Oxford apartment and stayed with my grandparents, helping my grandmother care for the love of her life as he began to lose his battle with cancer.
During the long, pain-filled nights, he’d call out for his wife of more than 50 years. And in those final weeks, he started calling my name as well. And I was honored.
He did not always exhibit patience but, ironically, it was from my grandfather I learned to be patient.
He taught me to drive a car – and his boat. Never once did he raise his voice, not even when I braked too hard or not soon enough.
He taught most of his 12 grandchildren to water ski and his patience in the process was appreciated.
It was the fishing trips in and around Grenada Lake with my grandfather where I realized he had the patience of Job.
Truth be told, if my cork didn’t bob in the first 10 minutes, I was more than ready to head for the docks and call it a day.
My grandfather, however, would instruct my grandmother to give me some Nabs and Co’cola and keep me quiet.
I wondered how this red-haired man could stay still for such a long time, waiting and watching. Maybe he’d leave the lake with a stringer of fish; maybe he’d leave with no fish at all. But that didn’t seem to matter one bit to him.
It took years for me to understand. But one day I finally got it, the still and silent stuff, the power of practicing patience.
Good gifts for the soul.
From my grandfather.
Happy Father’s Day.

Contact Leslie Criss at (662) 678-1584 or leslie.criss@djournal.com.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal