Memories of Granddaddy
Granddaddy was a tough old bird. He had a gruff exterior; a tough-macho type. What most people didn't know was that deep down he was a teddy bear. He was the most sentimental man I've ever met. If he believed in something, he was behind it 100% and everyone knew it. He had his convictions and a deeply rooted love for his family.
Growing up, we spent almost every weekend with my grandparents. Granddaddy was always an early riser; Mommo liked to sleep in as late as possible. So, it was always his responsability to feed us breakfast. His famous "milk toast" is something that I still hunger for every now and then! Every Saturday morning we would all load up into his car and head to Forest Park to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables at the Farmer's Market. We would buy crates of produce and take it all back to their home in Decatur. Granddaddy would spend most of his day squeezing oranges so that we would all have fresh orange juice for Sunday morning's breakfast.
Another Saturday ritual was our weekly trip to Lionel Leisure City. LLC was the equivelant to today's "Toys R Us". Granddaddy would give us each $10 and we could buy anything we wanted with that money. Joel and Jim usually got a football, baseball bat, a game, a model car or something. I would get a shopping cart and fill it up. I didn't care if they were good toys or not- I always went for quantity! I could get a page of stickers for a quarter, gumballs for a nickel, etc. In our eyes, Granddaddy was Santa Clause!
I had piano lessons at Mrs. Joneses house every week at 3:00pm. It was Granddaddy's duty to pick me up when the lesson was over at 4:00pm. If I wasn't outside standing by the mailbox at 4pm sharp, Granddaddy would start honking his horn. Eventually, Mrs. Jones started cutting my lessons a little short, just so she could avoid the emarrassing scene that he would create in her driveway. Forty five minutes into my session, she'd always say something like "Well, let's wrap this up before your grandfather gets here!".
Granddaddy died about 15 years ago, after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. His last few years were hard to witness. He lost about 150 pounds throughout his illness and didn't recognize any of us when we came to visit. He'd sit in his wheelchair and cry because he recognized us, but couldn't put a name to the faces. It was heartbreaking to see this once powerful man reduced to this. It was such a relief when he finally passed away.
I try not to remember those last years if I can help it. I prefer to picture him as the man that would run out in to the streets with us a midnight on New Year's Eve, banging a pot with a wooden spoon and encouraging us to make as much noise as possible. Or the man that would get us up at 5:00am to take us fishing. He was the man that taught us to use tools and helped us build our own pairs of stilts and shoeracks for our closets. He taught us all of the important life lessons that we would need to get through life: the value of money, the importance of family, and how to put a worm on a fishing hook!
Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas, Granddaddy! I can't imagine how I would've turned out without your influence!