Let Me Tell You About the Man We Knew...Our PawPaw
Everyone and anyone that knew our Paw Paw, no matter how or why or when you knew him could probably all agree on one thing:
Mickey Biles was one of the best practical jokesters that ever was.
If he was here today he’d pick a flower from one of these arrangements, stick it behind his ear and tell you he was a blooming idiot.
It didn’t matter if it was Sunday morning at church, a day on the job, or just randomly running into him at Food Lion, he was going to try and get you with a joke. He loved to catch the eyes of kids in church and wiggle his ears at them to see their eyes grow big in amazement. Kids, including myself, would peer back to where he always sat in the back corner of the sanctuary to get a laugh during service. Sometimes you would catch him asleep, which would also make us laugh. This of course did not make our Grandmother laugh…but he got pretty good at positioning himself in the pew so Grandmother couldn’t see him from where she sat in the choir.
He was known for pushing his false teeth out of his mouth with his tongue or removing them all together and asking if you needed to borrow them. His target audience for this was often the age when you start losing teeth as a kid. Some would laugh and some would cry but either way, you were guaranteed to walk away with a piece of butterscotch or cinnamon hard candy he’d pull from his pocket.
But he didn’t reserve his humor and desire to make people laugh and smile for just kids. No, he had his own set of jokes and props for a more mature audience. You may remember his “special” apron. His fake leg he would hang from his car or his pant leg. And of course his infamous business cards he loved to hand out. Some of you might be a lucky “Mitchell Biles” business card holder. If you are you know he is a master of many trades…a real Renaissance kind of man, if you will. His services were available but not limited to: having swamps drained, manufacturing antiques, picking ticks, plotting assassinations, repossessing coffins, and negotiating negotiations. He even claim to provided midwife services, fight wars, castrate alligators and stomp out forest fires. I’ve left a few out due to the nature of today and the fact there are children with us but we will have them available after the service if you’d like to take one home.
He would do anything for a laugh. Grandmother would often tell him to “stop your aggravating” but he didn’t see it like that. Just this past Monday one of the nurses was taking his blood pressure and told him that it was rising, he immediately gets wide eyed and looks up at the ceiling as if it was literally rising. He didn’t pass up an opportunity to make you smile, not even with a blood pressure of 60/30 and just days away from passing.
Paw Paw was a fighter and tough ole bird. He’s had heart surgery, battled cancer, been through chemo, survived a mini stroke, lived with diabetes and was on dialysis for 7 years. And even through all of this he never once thought about giving up. He’d tell you he was doing it for his “babies.” And on the worst of days when you’d ask him how he was doing or feeling, he’d say “I feel pretty good” or “I’m doing alright.”
If you knew Mickey, you knew how much he loved home grown tomatoes. He would pick them off the vine and eat them like apples. Often, you’d find a salt shaker in his pocket when he’d walk out to his garden just in case he found a ripe one that was ready for the pickin'. He loved working in his garden all his life. When he was unable to tend to a garden a few years ago, my mom always made sure she had tomato plants to keep PawPaw happy. A store bought tomato was bordering on a cardinal sin in the eyes of our PawPaw.
While living with my parents he gladly made it his responsibility to pick up all the pecans on the farm and shell them and put them into bags and store away in the freezer. He also gladly made it his responsibility to be the taste tester of anything anyone would make with those pecans.
But enough about the man that you all knew. Let me tell you about the man that we knew, our PawPaw…
As a little girl he was my favorite person on earth. I’d pack my tiny suitcase and from the age of 2 or 3, up through middle school, I’d spend practically every weekend at Grandmother and PawPaw’s house. My grandmother would pick me up on Friday afternoon and I wouldn’t see my parents until church on Sunday morning. We’d watch HeeHaw and eat canned plums and he’d peel and cut endless amounts of oranges and we’d sit in the living room watching tv while Grandmother would work on her Sunday school lesson. He’d fall asleep on his recliner every night but wouldn’t go to bed until Grandmother was ready. Bless his heart, our Grandmother was so slow, he’d be asleep for hours before she was done with whatever it was she did for hours sitting at the kitchen table.
Every Wednesday, my Paw Paw would drop my grandmother off at choir practice and pick me up and together we would go to the laundry mat. I don’t think I ever helped because oddly enough I didn’t know how to wash clothes when I left for college, but I’d sit and talk with him until all the laundry was clean and folded and loaded back in his truck.
Something my mother was probably not aware of at the time, but my PawPaw would let me sit on his lap and steer the car from Albemarle to Mount Gilead. My Paw Paw and I shared a love for muscadines, scuppernongs, and molasses. He would pick grapes for me and save me a jar of molasses and homemade preserves up through my college days. I was happy to do the same for him when he stopped canning. He loved my homemade preserves and would have them everyday with his breakfast. He was sure to let me know when he was running low so I could bring him another jar. It didn’t matter if they didn’t come out like I wanted them too, he loved them because one of his babies made em.
But I wasn’t the only one who was lucky enough to call him PawPaw. Matthew, Jennifer, Will, Summer and Suzanne were his babies too. And PawPaw was happiest when he had us all together.
Although he obviously knew our names, we were often referred to as suzie, lucy, George or fred and no matter how old we got, he always called us his babies.
Nothing was more magical that going to his house on Christmas morning. And whether it was Christmas morning or any ole Saturday, he had a permanent place at the stove cooking breakfast for us. His days of being First Cook in the Army National Guard prepared him well for the many family meals he made for us over the years. PawPaw loved to fish and bought most of us our first fishing poles. It didn’t matter if it was Matt or Will or one of his girls, he was always ready to take one of us fishing off the pier at Woodrun. 4th of July was always special because we got to watch our PawPaw shoot off fireworks for all the lake to see. We’d cookout on the lawn and lay out blankets and wait for it to get dark so we could sit there and watch in awe the display. There would be hundreds and hundreds of people on boats and piers and docks… all there to see OUR pawpaw’s firework display. We were pretty proud of that. And none of us can forget the Saturday night outings to Sir Pizza and trips to MaxWay where he’d always let us get something.
Matt remembers always being able to con him to let him have a sip of his homemade wine when he had a “stomach ache” when he was little.
Jennifer remembers how she would drive him a little crazy driving so fast up and down the driveway. He’d always tell her to slow down and want to know if she was in a race.
Summer has fond memories of her and Will doing flips on his arms in the hallway at his house and bouncing on his knee while he’d sing “PawPaw’s baby.”
And Suzanne always loved to hide behind the door and wait for him to come home on his lunch break and pop out to scare him when he walked in. He’d act so surprised every single time. It wasn’t til years later she realized he was just playing along with her joke. After all, no one appreciated a good practical joke more than him.
Most of you might know that our Paw Paw loved his chewing tobacco. What you might not know is that we used to hide it from him because we didn’t want him to get cancer. We said “spit out paw paw” so many times that he actually quit for years and we got him a trophy that said “spit it out, paw paw” just in case he needed a reminder.
Once all his babies grew up, a new set of babies became his pride and joy. He had 10 great- grandbabies and he literally lived for them. Nothing brought him more joy than seeing Gavin, Cooper, Noah, Ava, Brody, Bronx, Kase, Cash, Henry and Ila when they’d come to visit him.
Our PawPaw left us with a lifetime worth of love, laughter and lessons in life. He lead by example until the day he died. He didn’t tell us how to be honest, he showed us an honest man with how he lived. He didn’t tell us how to be respectful, he showed respect to everyone. His daily living was a playbook for life on morals, ethics and hard work. He was positive and optimistic about everything. He enjoyed simple pleasures and taught us the value in that. He set the bar for myself, Jennifer, Summer and Suzanne on how we deserved to be treated by any man. And during those awkward bad haircut years, he always made us feel special and pretty. He showed Matt and Will how a woman should be loved and respected by the way he treated our mom and Grandmother. He could cheer you up in a heartbeat without saying a word, but if words were needed, he had those too. He showed us how to not take life so seriously. He was honorable and humble to the core. He was a friend and a confident and he was always there when we needed him. And let’s not forget the important stuff…he taught us all how to shoot a gun, hook a fish, clean a deer and cook in the kitchen.
He will be missed beyond belief and there will be less laughter and practical jokes in the world without him here. At least he has a whole new audience in heaven to pull one over on. I imagine Will meeting him at the gates of heaven with fishing pole in hand and off they go.
So, until we meet again, we love you, PawPaw. You were the absolute best PawPaw in the whole world and we were incredibly blessed to be your babies for so long.