Grandpa and I, 1969
After meeting my Grandpa for the first time in February, 1969, we both eventually learned our lives would never be the same. The picture above is old enough it wouldn't scan without too much light. Thankfully you can see Grandpa, the subject of my post.
I have several photos of Grandpa or Papall as I preferred to call him when I was a bit younger. Unfortunately the ones I wanted to use are at my mom's house across town. Never being one to be organized, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. Love it or leave it. That's one reason why I loved my Grandpa so much. He let me be me. He taught me things and I learned. He didn't preach. He wasn't mean. He did ignore me at times I bored him to death, which I understand completely. All of these things formed a bond. As an adult looking back at my life, it's all of those things plus more that made him one of my favorite people ever. (Ironically he has a sister, my Aunt Sadie, who I love for the exact same things. She's also shares this status with my Grandpa.)
From a very young age we became buddies. Grandpa preferred to be outside tinkering, planting, fixing, rigging, fishing or who knows what exactly. I was probably not too far behind. (This was also a way to keep us out of my grandma's red hair too!) He entertained me. As an only child I craved entertainment!
After he had moved into the nursing home we were driving around town one day when he shared one of his stories with me. Apparently it had been on his mind. Sometime months or weeks earlier he had gone to a funeral in our hometown. Grandpa went to some one's home for the wake following the funeral and told me he sat on a step outside eating some good cake. He described seeing an old woman approach him out of the corner of his eye. (I had to laugh, my grandpa only had one good eye. And, I have a feeling, he saw her with his bad eye. I could just tell.) This woman I will call Vera, to protect her from any recollection she may have of this event.
Grandpa said Vera kept calling him by name as she walked up to him. He told me he kept eating that good cake. She repeated his name and told him who she was even stating, "Junior, don't you remember me?" Grandpa kept eating cake. He said she stood there talking and looking at him for what seemed like several minutes. Grandpa ignored Vera while she did all of this. He said he didn't look at her once. Vera finally gave up and even stated out loud, "Junior, you have REALLY gone downhill!" Grandpa stated he didn't even acknowledge Vera PERIOD!!
Entertaining the thought of him dating was a terrific idea so I asked him, "Grandpa, why didn't you say anything? You may have gotten lucky out of this deal!" "NO!" he said. And quite adamantly I might add. Keep in mind he didn't skip a beat telling me this tale, nor did he crack a smile.
Grandpa finally finished his story. He had been dating Vera when he was sent to WWII back in the 1940s. As soon as he got to his assigned post she sent him a Dear John letter telling him it was over. He had been quite smitten with this woman. He was not about to give her the satisfaction of talking to her when he saw her some measly 60 years later. I couldn't help but laugh, and he finally cracked that brilliant smile of his. I asked him surely he had seen Vera in 60 years since. He had. He just made it a point not to go near her.
Maybe telling me that story released his guilt. I don't think so. Grandpa felt like he got his due by pretending she wasn't there when Vera tried to converse with him that day. Maybe that little devil sitting on my left shoulder was inherited from the ole guy.
As I'm driving down the road some days I think of stories that warm my heart. They make me smile. Some might think this one is mean. I don't. I think it's human. Some act, some don't. Some just pretend they never do anything wrong. I know, sometimes we all do things wrong....
At my father's funeral a few months after my Grandpa shared this story with me, Vera came to the visitation. I made it a point to watch her. She ran straight to Grandpa. My heart twinkled. He acknowledged her, shook her hand and dropped his head. Not for her, but for my dad and himself no doubt. The funny part is, after that greeting, she ran straight to my Grandpa's brother to chat. My twinkling heart knew she was looking for a date that day.
A treat after my high school graduation in May, 1987. He's telling a story. I'm sure it's the one about how I caught him getting a "special drink" one day when I came over. I had never known him to drink and thought it was funny. So he tried to give me a taste. To make the story more interesting, I told everyone Grandpa tried to get me drunk. Which was totally not true. But he loved it.