Conversations With My Grandfather
Part 2 What I learned about Life, Death & Everything…
The stories my grandfather told me and the things I learned about him, just amazed me. They still do. In fact, thanks to my cousin Jamie who is a bloodhound when it comes to genealogy, I have learned many more things.
He and I were so close then, and we remain close now. I have looked back often over the years and realize how close I was to my mom’s parents. I spent many weekends there, had my own (shared) room there, had neighborhood friends there. It was my home. It was indeed where we lived when I was born.
I mowed and trimmed the lawn with an old push mower, and honestly, many times I was much happier there. Well, except for that old push mower. How in the name of god my grandmother mowed that huge yard I never could figure.
My grandmother was in her 60’s, and was like 4'10" and 100 lbs. A little German dynamo. She would say that mowing the lawn kept her young. I told her it kept me young also as I took the mower from her.
In everyone’s life there are certain memories. We all have them. I have lots of them. But one of my most precious, most remarkable memories, is that of sitting on the front porch with my grandma, listening to the birds rustle in the huge trees that lined the street. Waiting for the one sound I remember still to this day… the Methodist Church bell ringing to let us know it was 6 pm… dinner time.
My granddad, Pop, would be sitting in his chair waiting for the Huntley-Brinkley News Report, chain-smoking coffin nails manufactured for Chesterfield.
If only Tom Waites were around then, his music would have fit the scene perfectly, his low, gravelly voice meandering through scenes of loneliness and quiet despair as smoke wafted through the room. Waites smoked Chesterfields, of course.
My grandma, affectionately known by all as “Queenie”, would get dinner, already prepared earlier, sit the plates on folding tables, and we would watch the evening news and eat.
The evening news, of course, was offered up by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. My grandparents trusted them to be honest. If any of the so-called news outlets of today were available then, there is absolutely no telling what they would have done. My grandparents would not have been pleased. Pop would most likely have cussed often.
As the news neared 7 pm, Pop would head up-stairs with my help, climb into bed, and he and I would sit and talk for a while until he was either too tired, or his emphysema kicked in and he couldn’t breathe and talk.
Of course, as time went on and Summer became Fall, Fall became Winter, and then Spring came roaring back once again… Pop eventually had to stop coming downstairs. Climbing the stairs was too much, and Queenie could no longer help him up the stairs. They were steep, he was weak, as was she.
That summer night, as I helped him climb them one last time, it never occurred to me he would never see the world outside his bedroom ever again. Even still, we had another year or so worth of stories, and I listened intently to every word.
He talked about the 1964 election, WWI and WWII, and his views on science, God, the afterlife, church… we covered a lot of ground.