WHEN I TOLD MY SON that Otto the Great, founder of the Holy Roman Empire, was his 37th great grandfather—descended from my Granny, he said:
“Well, that was a big fall—from Holy Roman Emperor to hillbilly.”
My son is a smart mouth.
I decline to say from where he inherited that, except to say he doesn’t need ancestry.com to trace it.
Otto I (912-973) was a German king who united much of what is now Central Europe into what became known as the Holy Roman Empire.
He fought a lot.
It doesn’t seem like people cared much for him.
Even his brother Henry rebelled against him.
Granny, on the other hand, was well loved.
She was a coal miner’s wife who raised a family in a hollar outside the tiny town of Tunnelton, West Virginia.
I have no idea how her family made the transition from Holy Roman Emperor to hillbilly.
My cousin Sandy Thomas is still monkeying around the family tree, and will probably be hanging out there for many more months. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will be able to trace the trail and get some kind of an understanding about what happened.
At this point, I find myself thinking about the way my son phrased his quip. As though the family had suffered a fall from grace.
I don’t know much about Otto.
But I know a lot about Granny. She moved into our house after Grandpap died, before I was a teenager. It became her home base.
I know scores of grandparents. Some of them very well—grandparents I love dearly. Perhaps someday I’ll be a grandparent, too. (No rush, kids. Take your time. I got a dog.)
What I can tell you about Granny is this: Of all the grandparents I have ever known in my lifetime, no grandparent was ever loved by her grandchildren more than Granny.
She had over a dozen grandkids. And they all fought to have her come and visit. There was a pitched battle to gain the pleasure of her company on holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
I wonder if the grandkids of Otto the Great loved him like that.
If not, so what if he unified Central Europe?
If he didn’t unify his family, what’s so great about him?
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT).
The greatest of these is not unifying Central Europe.
With that in mind, I’m taking a knee for Granny the Great (1908-1979), unifier of the clans Williams, Miller, Thomas, and Clark.