Again, another natural idea for G. My Grandpa will be 93 this weekend. He’s a tough old guy, survived the great depression as part of a Midwestern Catholic family, the oldest of six boys. He also survived polio, floods, and all sorts of things that would make people of my generation shake in their boots.
He married my grandmother on August 6, 1945, with two brothers just days from being sent to the Pacific theater to fight the end of WWII. Together they had five children, my mom the oldest girl, her two brothers and two sisters.
With my dad being in the Air Force, and me being the oldest granddaughter, I was fortunate to spend a lot of my early years at my grandparents’ house. When my dad was in Southeast Asia in 1973, I lived the first six months of my life with my Grandpa & Grandma. I was incredibly lucky.
My favorite sound of fall comes from walking up the road from his house into the hills of the Ohio River valley, crunching acorns all the way up and down the sidewalk. I’ll always have a fondness for Native American history because of the trips we took to Mound Park in his town, or Serpent Mound. And oh, my, vanilla ice cream in a cup with a wooden spoon, with a bottle (glass) of Pepsi on the front porch of the family neighborhood grocery store. Childhood in your hand, and I can taste it now.
Of course it was fun with Grandpa jumping in his leaf piles in the backyard when I was young that helped my mom get my fungus, dust, grass, and leaf allergies diagnosed. I was less than five, so I don’t remember the reaction. Thank goodness. Grandpa had the most amazing garden around his house — I will have one like his, with roses and gladiolas when I have a place to call my own again. Years ago I actually wrote a poem about it and created a scrapbook layout dedicated to it. (Silly girl, I know.)
I also tried fishing the first time with him, and remember we’d take off on a little road trip, and come home drenched from a summer drive up to the lake, or down to Dreamland pool, despite mom saying “don’t go anywhere you get wet.”
I get carsick in the backseat, but not backwards – I often sat in the rumble seat in the back of Grandpa’s green station wagon (you know, that ’70s model with the wood paneling everyone had.) And I’ll always have a soft spot for collies because the first dog I knew was Sunny.
Grandpa’s where I also got my love of writing, photography, and drawing I think. He always was taking pictures. In fact, one time he nearly got in trouble with the school and police when he came out to take photos of me and my sister playing football at recess, because we’d soon be leaving for Germany and he wanted to have photos to put in an album to help us remember our time there. Nothing like a classmate saying “there’s a weird old guy taking pictures over there,” and explaining to your teacher and classmates it’s your grandfather.
I used to go to choir practice with Grandpa & Grandma at their church, and when Grandpa and Dad re-carpeted the choir loft when I was 10, I “helped”.
When we lived in Germany for five years, it was Grandpa who’d send us boxes (and I’m talking by the case) of Jolly Rancher “Stix” which I was able to resell to classmates for a nice profit, supplementing my allowance. They also came to see us in Germany – and found the ancestral homeland.
Even after I graduated college, Grandpa’s was my “get out of here I’m going nuts” place. I knew I could always call it home.
He’s the last grandparent I have left, the one I’ve always been closest to, and I am desperately trying to be an optimist in the face of realism. My stubborn streak comes clearly from him. His memory is getting shorter, his balance worse. He’s beaten heart surgeries, cancer scares, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s outlived at least a couple doctors.
About six months ago, he had a pretty bad fall. So bad that he had significant blood loss and a severe concussion. He was apparently just days away from congestive heart failure. He’s been slowly rehabbing since, and it’s at that point where I think (and I’ve felt this for a while) he needs to live somewhere someone can care for him or at least be around 24/7. That won’t be his house, my life-long home-base, anymore. Mortality is staring me in the face, and I hate it. This strong, wonderful man, who influenced me in so many positive ways, and has always been there, may not be there anymore much longer.
He’s the only reason I’ve gone in the past ten years, other than my grandmother’s funeral nearly 10 years ago. The town where my family’s lived for more than five generations is like other former Ohio River steel towns, dying. Once he’s gone, I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to that part of Ohio again.