With Father’s Day recently past, a lot of us have been thinking about our fathers. Indeed, I posted my bit here.
Others have posted their bits, including Annie, Rob, and Daisy Fae. Today, though, I want to talk about Granddads. I was fortunate to have two of the best men in the world as Granddads. I am sure they had their faults, but as a child I never saw them. Later as an adult, I maybe had a glimpse.
One thing my granddads shared was a love of fishing. I think they both used the outdoors as a church. My Grandpa J was a stream fisherman. He would load up the car with Grandma and as many of us kids as you could squeeze into the old Nash Rambler, and off we’d go to the mountains. Our favorite spot was in the Cucharas Valley. We would go several times a summer, and then Grandpa would take off with his fishing pole and a few worms to ply the streams. I don’t remember that he was too successful, but I think it was more an exercise in walking meditation, and to get away from Grandma for a while. Grandpa M was a lake fisherman. He would take us out to a lake, and we would learn to sit watching a bobber in the water, and get sunburned. We liked to go to DeWeese Reservoir. I don’t remember him being that successful, either, but I think it was a sitting meditation. And to get away from my grandmother. Is there a theme here? At any rate, I soon learned to go fishing when there was trouble at home, and it’s served me well.
Grandpa J was a trickster. He was the guy nobody wanted to sit next at the table because he would pinch you and then look innocent. Eventually we learned to sandwich him between Grandma and the end of the table so he couldn’t make trouble. When we would stay over at the grandparent’s we were offered a choice of baloney and eggs or eggs and baloney for breakfast. We also got to eat oatmeal and cornmeal fixed by Grandpa, stuff my mother wouldn’t touch because of her memories of the Depression. We, of course, thought it was haute cuisine.
Grandpa J loved him some beer. He would show up at the house, and immediately start coughing and choking. This was the cue for my dad to ask if the roads out to the house were dusty, and did he need a beer to settle the dust. Of course the answer was affirmative. Even when he was in the nursing home, he would roll his wheelchair up to the kitchen where his “prescription” beer was stored, and start hacking and coughing. The cooks soon learned that was the signal for a cold one. I took care of him in the nursing home, and the only reason I wasn’t there the moment he died is that he sent me home so he could die. And I would remember the days when he still worked downtown for the Post Office, and would bring home bon-bons for us, telling us he had slaved all day over a hot counter to make them for us.
Grandpa M was the keeper of the soda pop and candy bars. We like to go to their house because we got all the treats there. Grandpa was pretty deaf, and didn’t talk much, but he always had an encouraging word for us. Back behind their house, Grandma and Grandpa had a hobby house. Mostly Grandpa used it for his hobby of smoking the cigars Grandma wouldn’t let in the house. He would help you with your homework, and since they lived “around the corner” from us in rural terms, we saw them often. When we had the afternoon paper route, their house was always a pit stop for refreshements. And Grandpa would always bring Honey-Dog home when she ran over there in a thunderstorm. She was probably one of the most gun-shy Cockers I’ve ever come across. And the grandparents would feed her T-Bones, which were a dog biscuit shaped like a T-bone, and when the storm died, he’d bring her home in his Cadillac.
I was fortunate. Grandpa M lived until I was 23. When he was dying my aunt took him back to her home in New York State, where I am sure he did a lot of fishing before he died. Grandpa J lived until I was 33, and I spent a lot of time with him the last couple years of his life. I realize how lucky I was to have both of them nearby, and for them to live so long.